Between the Seagull and the Wolves

I don’t know why it is, but this week appears to have been secretly designated ‘Odd Memory Flashback Week’ in the blogosphere. I guess I just didn’t get the memo.

For the second time (you can catch the first here at The Upside of Humor) in just a few days, I’ve been visited by a long lost memory that must have been hiding among the mental dross of my brain.

It all began when I shuffled staggered into the kitchen this morning, bleary eyed and in need of coffee. I glanced over at the big window looking out on the tiny, fenced-in garden area that is attached to our rented Dutch rijtjeshuis (basically what would be referred to elsewhere as a narrow 3-story brick town house or brownstone).

There, perched majestically on the top of the little wooden storage shed, was a seagull. Well, he was looking as majestic as a seagull is capable of looking, but he was extremely large nonetheless.

Looking directly at me.

Despite having lived here in the The Hague for almost three years, it still always takes me a moment to remember that we even have seagulls. (It can take several moments when you are caffeine-deprived.) This despite the fact that I see them on a daily basis.

Seagull standing on a beach Adventures in Expat Land

A Relative of the Evil One

Our little street is less than a mile from the North Sea beach of Scheveningen, which explains the appearance of seagulls.

But living ‘inland’ in a neighborhood full of said rijteshuizen with several taller government and commercial buildings only a few blocks away, you’re readily reminded that this is indeed an urban area.

A relatively slower-paced city full of nearby woods and lush parkland, but an urban center nonetheless.

Hence my Groundhog Day-esque forgetfulness about the sand dunes and seagulls in close proximity.

Husband takes a more easygoing approach to the gulls visiting our back garden, and chooses to simply ignores them.

I don’t share that view.

Not. At. All.

I have no interest in their doing what birds do naturally anywhere near our garden, let alone taking over our shed as a seagull command post.

This had to be dealt with, and without delay.

As I headed toward the back door, the gull’s beady eyes locked on mine. I thought he’d have enough sense to fly away when he saw me coming, but no. I rapped on the back door window, but to no avail.

I quickly unlocked the door and threw it open, stepping into the doorway. Just as I was about to wave my arms and quietly but firmly shoo the bird away, I stopped.

In that split second I realized that he was big. Really big. Bigger than our cairn terrier Oli. Almost bigger than our enormous cat Ava.

The gull was holding his ground, staring back at me. The fear washed over me.

What if he doesn’t fly away? I’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock’s epic The Birds. What if he decides to attack me?

And in that instant I was transported back to a scene several many years ago. It was a frigid, snowy Saturday and I was on my way to take an early morning university make-up exam. I was trudging along a path on the far side of campus to the social sciences building; it was located near a wooded hillside covered in thigh-deep snow.

The area was deserted, with no sound save the slight howling of the wind through the treetops. My fellow students were still asleep after the previous night’s revelry, and I must confess that I was feeling a tad bit sorry for myself, as self-absorbed teens are wont to do.

That is, until I looked up and saw them.

Not more than fifty yards ahead of me was a pack of four or five wolves, running at a good clip, headed straight towards me. Their heavy fur coats were thick and greyish, their light eyes glowed and their tongues hung out of their snarling mouths.

I froze in terror.

Oh my God, this is it. I’m going to be torn apart by a pack of wolves, with nobody around to save me. This can’t be how it ends…

That is, until I realized that it was just the usual band of scruffy huskies and mixed-breed dogs that tended to roam freely about many rural university campuses, their ownership dubious.

My pursuers ran by. They didn’t even bothering to look up, intent on reaching whatever destination they were collectively headed.

I turned toward the building’s back entrance, shaking from what can only be described as the unusual combination of the rush of adrenaline from the threat to my physical safety, immense relief at not meeting my demise by a pack of vicious animals, and total mortification at what had transpired.

Still burning with embarrassment at the memory, I snapped back to the present.

As I raised my arms and took a step toward the shed, the seagull gave an insouciant shrug and flew off insearch of a quieter, higher perch.

I’d like to say that I felt victorious, but that pack of ‘wolves’ won’t let me.

Image credit: Arkorn, portfolio 2744 freedigitalphotos.net



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