The Call of Gulls

Jul 9, 2019

Credit Patrick Hendry / unsplash

I was lying in bed, between dreams, wide awake.  It was late - or early - 3:35 AM.  The house was still (no, not even a mouse…), the woods were quiet - the cricket din excepted.  No street noise, nothing from Route 6.  I lie awake. 

Then, from across the water, came the calls of gulls.  Calls?  Cries of gulls?  The sound: half whoop and holler, half mournful moan, half bugling self-advertisement (too many halves here) - a kind of shrieking, but melodic in the aggregate:  “Eh, hah!, oh, oh, oh….no that approach won’t work.  And, of course, the sound coming across the water, mixes with the water, bounces off the wharves and pilings and moored boats and jetties and the sand itself- many sided grains projecting whatever energy is in the air- and it spills across the quiet streets, the machines at rest, the people in their beds…The cries reverberate, I suppose I mean, across the open water, beneath the dark sky. 

The quality of the sound has as much to do with the space over which it travels, the quiet empty unused surfaces from which it reflects, resonates, as it does the gulls who throw back their heads and let loose. 

I lie awake, the gull cries with me, still coming in the open window, and I remember years ago (fifty years ago!), and in late March…was it?...or early April, tumbling out of the bars after Last Call, calling out good nights, on our way home- and then, from across the water, across the harbor, from out at the Point- the raucous calls of gulls, shrieks and cries and bugling from hundreds, perhaps thousands of gulls- a cacophony. 

And, of course, it was springtime, they were pair-bonding, they were mating, and they were doing it in a mob.  It was very exciting to hear, all that gull noise, and very exciting to imagine the frenzy at the Point.  From that night on those sounds came to mean spring to us, just as much as the songs of the Red-winged Blackbirds or the spring peepers, and we listened for them every season.