little specks of red under their beaks

I was walking home in the afternoon, on a cold, misty day. It didn't look like daylight, or any kind of light. It was like the absence of light, of any kind, and it was breathtakingly lovely.

Houses were half-built, lights glowed warmly, trees were suggestions of trees, only so high. And about my feet, too, there was a flowing swelling of mist, and my clothes were beaded and heavy, and even my breath swirled and ebbed in front of me.

There is a park across the corner from where I live, auspiciously named Unthank. It is a wide plain with a baseball diamond, and a long, tall row of swaying trees curving across the breadth of it. Beyond the trees, a play structure and a basketball court huddle awkwardly, like afterthoughts. At night, when the sky is clear, you can see the stars quite clearly from here, with a wider view of the night sky than anywhere else (though you must be careful lest the wandering police shoot you for doing nothing much at all, particularly at night and in my neighborhood).

This afternoon the plain was covered with seagulls, hunting worms. They almost seemed afloat in the mist, and the grass appeared and dissolved beneath them, and they chattered and stooped lazily in the not-light. For some reason, I could clearly see the little red specks on their beaks, and their pinions were so specific and just so. From time to time one would watch me warily, and one or two of his comrades, also, before deciding all at once that the meals before them were more interesting.

I was fascinated, and a little terrified. I'd never seen so many seagulls away from the ocean, and so calm. I hear them, from time to time, lost, I suppose, in the labyrinthine tributary watersheds of the Willamette and the Columbia (I don't imagine them to be all that bright, the more I think about them). And I then think of myself, a little bit lost, a little bit hopeless, and surprisingly calm, too.