It was a fine morning, but tomorrow would not be, because the winds were heading due west. The seagull circled higher, so that the waves moved in a hypnotizing ripple as one when looking down from so high above them; the waves flowed, together, way out to the horizon, and past the curve of the sky they continued, far and farther out, a great, breathing lifeform that saw an endless expanse of the sky and the seagull was only one of the millions of creatures in its sight. The waves rushed on, silent from this height, and came crashing down upon the beach, grasping at the sand, straining to continue the journey that began at a shore beyond the seagull’s understanding and was now at the beach of the Isle of Skye, to reach for the feet of one of the little sons (from the house with many children and ones who did not seem to fit in with the rest) as he jumped away from the rushing crest that at last gave up on its glory and sank into the sand with grace, or otherwise retreated to the deeper water to rally another attempt. The water was cold, today, too cold for the child, and he felt, rather than heard, hints of the warning that faded in and out of the murmur of the shifting sand. The salty spray leapt up for the tips of the bird’s feathers, waiting for it to sink close enough for the water to feel the bird’s heat and for it to feel the water’s cold. The wind blew light yet relentless; the clouds took on a shadow of purple. They hastened westward, casting shade on the stripes of the lighthouse’s tower, and it stirred in its dreams.
The water pounded on the rocks as the seagull wheeled lower to the shore, and the child was walking across the wet sand and back up the slope to the field before the house, where his mother and father and siblings awaited his return from the evening glow that had bid him slip so soon from the dinner table. The bird followed his path and overtook him quickly, strong wings a greater force than the little feet could hope to be. The boy looked up as the gull flew over him, his hair ruffling in the breeze that the bird carried down from heights the boy could know only from the top of the winding stairs of the lighthouse. Over the rise of the hill, and on the far side of the field, was the girl who sat on her small chair and let a rectangle of cloth canvas block her view of the movements of day.
The girl would raise her brushes with a tremor when the sunset behind the canvas was such a deep tone of burning red, as the seagull felt tonight’s sunset would be (because of the pressing wind, the clouds that hummed with low purple, and the promise the waves whispered with their last breaths of something to come tomorrow. The seagull felt this with certainty as the mother of the household stepped outside and called to the child who ran to her loveliness, and the seagull was sure that no, tomorrow would not be fine), and the deepness of the red as it faded into blue and black opened up in the girl a deepness as well–a great chasm. The girl shook with the pressure of something that could hardly be contained (her brush steady, waiting), and though the chasm walls echoed with intensity she was never able to gauge its depth. The burning clouds were ringing high and holy with the seagull’s evaluation of the wind and the gaze of every child in that house who paused a moment to hear the unearthly bells and see the red, and as the sunset faded into twilight the chasm in the girl finally released from within it, to rise uninhibited from its depths, an identity.
She let the days, awful and beautiful alike, go past, and she let the canvas force the chasm an angle deeper and wider within her. It would swallow the things that moved past her wide scope of sight from atop the hill, near the tree where the seagull made his nest, and the white bird watched her and the hill and the shore, seeing as she did, feeling the air that settled on her paints. When the canvas swallowed things, and the chasm in her echoed wide, she would move her brushes to release them from it and they returned stripped down to the truth; the seagull felt sure of the truths the girl saw in the deepness of the sunset and in the mother whose son answered her call. The chasm echoed, and the seagull saw the girl was removed from the synchronized waters off the shore. Her eyes were marked by the waves from the great eastern seas the seagull had never experienced, and here there was no one to see in her canvas the truth of the view from the hill save the other birds of the Isle and the sweeping eye of the lighthouse that paused at the girl’s window in the nighttime to cast its illuminated gaze on the remainders of a shaky arm, a steady hand, and a chasm from within.
Though the seagull could circle with the waves (they were birthed as one and moved together through the vastness of years and space to reach the shores at the little boy’s toes), the girl had been born without knowing how to tap into their rhythm. The seagull saw this and knew it was true, because the girl shook in the slightest way, and the canvas tried to bring into itself the sunset and the endless echo, and there was another who stayed in the house on the hill: a man who sometimes stood by her on the hill, and saw only the girl from the shores of the faraway east; in the canvas he saw nothing but color without depth. The child passed through the doorway, and the mother, satisfied that her truth was certain, closed the door of the house.
The seagull saw this all, and saw the great ocean and heard its heartbeat quicken, and felt the winds that were blowing to the west. The lighthouse was steadying itself in anticipation of tomorrow because it too, like the chasm in the girl, listened intently to whispers from the beach and saw the color in the clouds; the wind was moving west and the seagull knew with certainty that tomorrow would not be fine. The white bird lived on the field of the hill where the house stood, and those who were caught adrift by the water came to it as if compelled by that mother who moved with the sureness of soft rain and did not falter (except under the gaze of the lighthouse eye that swept silent over her after dark settled), and the waves rang with truth, and that truth was answered with a quiet song in kind from the canvas that belonged to the girl from the east, and the seagull spun his circles thick over it all; the bird knew the wind and was certain.
The seagull avoided the height of the lighthouse’s eye at night; its heat prickled the wise bird’s feathers even from the distance of the tower to the hill where the house stood. Its truth was too harsh, too inescapable, and the mother of the house knew this truth because of a different sort of chasm from the girl’s. Her home was neatly ordered, as was her mind, and within that order were things too dangerous to lock eyes with that had been smoothly packed away, and the rows of boxes stood firm and sure within home and mind alike until the lighthouse eye weighed too heavily upon them. In the night the seagull felt her anguish, reflecting outwards from the floorboards beneath her that lay in path of that beam, and closed both eyes to grant her mercy, wishing the lighthouse would do the same–but the blinding light was of a different frequency from the mother and the bird and even the boy who knew when to back away from the sea. It knew nothing of her sorrow, her troubles and joys, and knowing them would have changed nothing in its circling path. The seagull hummed the songs he learned from the creatures of the bluest part of the seas surrounding the Isle, vibrations that denoted stories passed from the behemoths of the ocean floor to the whales that sang to each other across lifetimes of distance to the fish that swam beside them and finally, when they jumped out of the water to feel the sun glimmering off their scales, to the birds who snatched the fishes’ tales off of the wind and brought them ashore.
The bird remembered the journey the song had taken, feeling the weight of looking up from the ocean’s floor beside forgotten beasts who knew the truths of the salty currents, and willed it to reach the bones of the mother, to strengthen her against the merciless eye of the lighthouse. It would overtake her, soon, if she was not careful, because the boxes were rattling on her shelves, and the storm to come would snap the shaky legs off of her chairs and stacks of fine china would slide from her cupboards: her house would fall into disarray. The mother of the house with a child who wanted only to feel the cool stone of the lighthouse, who knew nothing of its all-encompassing light, would succumb to that which fell upon her in the dark night, without defenses left to protect her. The young son of her house would no longer fear the sea when he had reason to, because he would know a more violent desolation than its vastness, and no dying truth of the waves would reach his ears again.
Morning came, and the seagull felt the change in the wind and braced to face the expected storm. The lighthouse flashed on as the clouds grew dark and thick, their color spilling like tea into the sea at the horizon to mix, spreading in clouds of ink, closer to shore, eradicated by the sweeping knife of the lighthouse beam only to creep forward again. They circled each other, the lighthouse tolled with absolute clarity through the growl of the world pressing in on it, its brilliance carving deeper into the hearts of the girl with the canvas, the mother, the son–and through it all the seagull wheeled above their house in time with the lighthouse gaze, constant and without doubt against the howl of wind. White against the sky and the glowing domain of the lighthouse, the bird was certain of the mother’s death, because of the lifted pressure of the air, the tea-spilled clouds, and the gasp of the waves as they reached for the house on the hill with a field.