Life, on a Grain of Sand

Feet in sand 8x 5100 resDSC_0281.jpg“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.” William Blake

Sometimes when I walk the beach I think that each moment is like the individual grains of sand beneath my feet. Together the grains are an apron of white spread out before the sea.

But they are in fact individual parts of the whole white span, as are my moments in my whole life. None of the moments before me are really ordinary. Because when I experience them fully they are all quite…EXTRAordinary. I try to remember that every day, with every step, on our Long Beach shore.

If wildlife would stay in the wild we wouldn’t, for the most part, know of the drama that unfolds.

But it doesn’t…so we do.

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Anyone who follows my blog, even a bit, knows about the annual nesting of oystercatchers right smack in the middle of our Great White Theater by the Sea.

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Our boardwalk balcony provides viewers with a front row seat at the first days of “chicklet” life on our fickle planet.

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Now, I marvel at ospreys and their spectacular eyesight, their ability to spot prey beneath the sea’s surface from the highest thermals, then dive to claw and capture living protein.

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But I dread to see gulls invade an oystercatcher’s nest area. To see them dive in an attempt to snatch a fuzzy ball of protein from a feathered family.


We see such events often on our Long Beach shores. The prey of the ospreys, often bunker, sometimes escape the thrusting talons. So too do oystercatchers deftly fight gull intruders off.

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But not always:

One recent attempt resulted in a bloody air battle between gull and oystercatcher. Talons tore, beaks ripped…bones broke. The oystercatcher was seriously wounded. It’s wing hung limp and bleeding, never again to fly our shore. But the three chicks which the guardian courageously protected were safe.

As previously reported here, rescuers Cathy and Rob Horvath took the wounded oystercatcher and two of the chicks under their own wings. The lone parent was left with one chick on the beach. Neither has been seen for some time.

But once again I must take this opportunity to laud the work of WINORR (Wildlife In Need Of Rescue and Rehabilitation) Dedication such as theirs is cherished by lovers of wildlife.

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Photo by Danielle Parrone

The damage to the oystercatcher was severe. Bones indeed were snapped.

The bird was professionally attended and it survived the surgery. But Cathy told me over the course of the post-op period that she was concerned about the stress exhibited by the oystercatcher. She said,  “Sometimes stress is a killer. The babies are found well. Eating fine. I might try and rehome them with another family.”

Her concerns were born out, the oystercatcher did not recover. But it did its job, it protected its mate and family successfully…at the cost of its own life. As so many protectors, of so many kinds, have done.

Yes, the chicks survived. In their brief respite they ate well, hopped around the cage and were eager to begin shore life again. Eager to be amidst the sea, the sand, the struggle, the being of life.

The chicks were recently returned to our Long Beach shore. Cathy found a prospective oystercatcher family at the far end of Long Beach, well beyond the boardwalk’s eastern edge. The oystercatcher family that she located had  just one chick so she freed the two survivors to that family.

Sometimes parents will attack new chicks if they get close to their own newborn. But this was not the case. This adoptive family was very accepting, Cathy said. She watched as the drama unfolded.

Cathy reported:”I was there for hours!!! This is my life. I rehome many different types of birds. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. They were calling out and the adults became protective of them. It worked out, awesome!!”

Awesome, indeed. Life’s beauty survived its brutality…for these chicks…at this time. Such a tiny moment on a tiny planet on America’s eastern shore.

Is Earth but a grain of sand on the shore of the Milky Way sea? And on that grain…walk you and me?

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Sometimes wildlife teaches me. Sometimes I see the vivid essence of life in it; brutal, yes, but mostly beautiful.

So often are human families torn by the beaks and talons of life. But many of us are “re-homed”, sometimes more than once. Yes, there’s a lot of stress, sometimes debilitating stress. What helps is to not let the beauty of life go unsavored. It’s the beauty that fortifies, that sustains…that makes life worthwhile.

Sometimes it’s just the fun, the air dancing:


Sometimes the essence of life is before me in a single moment, the “world in a grain of sand.” Let me share with you, once again, a magic moment. It’s actually one minute, fourteen seconds, long. But it’s of the oystercatcher pair air dancing, synced…about to start their spring nest:


Be well,

3 replies »

  1. I’ve been reviewing my past posts and comments and I’m embarrassed to see this comment escaped my notice last July. My sincerest apologies. And thank you so much for your comment. The oystercatchers should be back soon.


  2. Hello Lee! Thank you for the update. My husband and I love the Oystercatchers. What bittersweet news. It’s so sad to hear that the injured adult wasn’t able to recover. However, we’re happy to hear that the babies have a new home. Excellent writing and beautiful insight. Keep this blog going. You have a great voice 🙂


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