6: Seaside Surprise

6: Seaside Surprise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Seaside Surprise

I think that someone is watching out for me, God, my guardian angel, I’m not sure who that is, but they really work hard.

~Mattie Stepanek

The bed and breakfast I was visiting in Newport, Rhode Island was a couple of blocks from the beach. I’m not an avid swimmer or sunbather but I love being near the ocean. Its beauty, energy, and timelessness have always been draws for me. I picked up a lunch at a local deli, grabbed a book and a folding chair, and drove to the high cliffs that famously drop down to the ocean from the “cottages” of Newport.

I found an isolated path descending from the road to the ocean’s edge. As I headed down toward the water I realized that the waves were really angry. I backtracked and settled myself in a small clearing among the rocks halfway between the road and the sea.

No people. No noise. Wonderful isolation. A perfect place to read, meditate, and contemplate nature at its best — I was in heaven.

After a short while the waves seemed to calm a bit. So I picked myself up, gathered my belongings, and headed further down the rocky path toward the ocean.

Seagulls had been flying by periodically, briefly alighting — I hadn’t paid any particular attention to them. I’d glimpsed one with a bent leg and another with a wing at an awkward angle. Still another had some uncharacteristic dark markings. But suddenly a huge, completely white seagull flew directly in front of me, landed in my path, and blocked my way down to the sea. Each time I attempted to shoo it away or walk past it the bird became really aggressive. It refused to move from the path and let me pass. Even pieces of bread broken off from my lunch sandwich, thrown a couple feet away, couldn’t persuade this obstinate creature to move. Disgusted, I headed back up the path and settled into the spot I had previously occupied.

I was shocked when the gull followed me and alighted on a rock outcropping about three feet from my chair. It just sat there, as if it were watching over me. Other seagulls flew by — occasionally one would land at some distance and after a while take flight again. But this huge bird never left my side. At first he was a bit intimidating, but as time passed I was able to ignore him.

At one point a family with a little girl came down the path. Headed for the ocean, they walked by me and I wondered if the huge seagull would block their way as well.

Nope, he continued to sit there, still as a stone, three feet from me.

“Well,” I reasoned, “If they can do it, so can I.”

I got up from my chair and darn that bird—he immediately flew into the path once more, blocking my way again. Perplexed, I returned to my chair. He returned to his same rocky ledge, and continued to sit by my side for over three hours. It seemed like a vigil.

During that time the waves below became increasingly violent. The tide started to come in, and suddenly the location I had previously coveted further down on the rocks was completely inundated by a tremendous, powerful wave. I was stunned. Then there was a second, and yet a third massive wave.

Surprised by the ferocity of the ocean, I decided to drive over to the beach to see what was going on. Something really unusual seemed to be happening. As I packed to leave, the huge seagull finally flew off. He startled me by doubling back and swooping right in front of my face. I actually had to duck my head to make certain there would be no collision. And when I had climbed to the top of the cliff and was about to enter the road, this strange bird made yet another turn and swooped back right over my head. It almost seemed like a farewell.

I headed for the beach and was surprised to find it was closed. However, that didn’t mean there weren’t any people there. Hundreds, held back by the police and barricades, lined the roadside watching violent twelve-foot waves roar and crash onto the shore.

And then I learned that a massive hurricane had struck down in the Carolinas. A few deaths had already occurred. All the beaches along the Atlantic coast had been closed. Mother Nature was certainly putting on an extraordinary — albeit dangerous — show.

I had spent the day entirely alone, never speaking to anyone, on the rocks by the ocean’s edge, completely unaware of the impending danger. Had I moved further down the path from where I was sitting I would have been swept into the ocean by the rogue waves I’d seen. This had already happened to two people south of us. They had both drowned. That would have been me as well — if not for the giant bird that spent all afternoon keeping me at a safe distance.

The following day, with the ocean still far from normal, I returned to the location of the rocky path down to the sea. But this time, instead of carrying my lunch, a book, and a folding chair, I brought a few bags of bread purchased at a local supermarket. I climbed down the path, opened the bags, and tore the bread into small pieces. I sprinkled them near where I’d been sitting the day before — all the while giving thanks to the seagulls wildly flying about over the still agitated ocean. I stayed a while, perched on the rocks, scanning the skies and my surroundings. Yes, the gulls with the crooked leg, odd wing, and strange markings were still in the area — they all seemed to hang out here together. But the huge all-white bird was nowhere to be seen.

To this day I have no idea why that big obstinate seagull was there watching out for me. What I do know is that without its mysterious intervention, I wouldn’t be here to tell this tale.

~Marsha Warren Mittman

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