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Rhythms for Survival

On the other side of a translucent glass membrane, a membrane breaking up the opacity and channeling the outside world, our autotrophic forefathers, their mathematical symmetries reified as branches, beckon. Or they most likely hadn’t beckoned, however, there is little one can do in defying the urge to put one’s hind limbs to the task of walking us out to convene with them- and so it happened that in the time it takes for a single Clostridium perfringens bacterial cell to divide, the space on the other side of the membrane had been filled by something extra- me.

This set of events led to another set of events, as sets of events are wont to do and there, on a muddy patch with little tufts of green hair sticking out, upright like they had just suffered from hypothermia or perhaps felt some emotional response from the music of the rains, 2 orange webbed feet and 2 orange bills stood in sharp contrast against the brown patch and green tufts.

Several blurs of other colours-blues, purples, blacks, greys, walked hastily to their destinations, some with a stern expression on their faces, lines for mouths and some chattering away animatedly with their situational companions. It was quiet despite the flurry of activity. The seagulls were framed outside of any other goings-on in the background. I’ve always found them fascinating, not as the epitome of thievery (it’s all about perspective and I can see why some people might be annoyed) but as beautiful seabirds with a perspicacity so acute, it feels like one could never hope to win an argument against a gull.

They don’t care about you, for the most part, unless you’re armed with some potato wedges or maybe some fish fingers. But, regardless, I stood hunched with my palms pressed against my knees, keeping a respectful distance in order not to startle them.

Of course, in endeavours such as this, there is always an element of risking some embarrassment- for me there was- initially at least. It seems more plausible though that people are more occupied with the thoughts in their head or the future happenings of the day, to register it, even if they notice.

Either way, I taught myself not to care-perhaps in the same nonchalant way that seagulls don’t. A seagull’s interiority, the associations we make with it and the attributes we project onto it, are however, the products of our subjective assemblages- even familiar objects which don’t appear to alter in the act of comparing it to pre-existing mental models, are in fact never the same, every act of seeing is in some sense an act of discovery or as the researcher Félix Schoeller describes in the Aeon Mag article “Psychogenic Shivers”, “one is constantly discovering a visual field, everything you feel, you feel for the first time and perception is really exploration.”

The only thing that can hint at some form of understanding of seagull consciousness, springs out of the study of its behaviour and perhaps connecting it to its neurophysiology. That being said, however, doesn’t take away from what poetry and the imagination can do in describing something in the realm of probability, the abstract has its place- in something as supposedly concrete as mathematics but also literature, poetry, music and so on.

Their web-like feet ‘oranged’ and flowed into the larger streamlined body of white, some grey on the wings and a touch of black at the rear end. A soft ring of orange skirted the roundish eyes- as if drawn on and it looked like the orange had associated itself with more real estate by also forming the protuberance that is the bill- an extra appendage of sorts, the shape of which often points to the bird’s feeding habits.

At first they moved around erratically on the balding patch but soon settled into a rhythm. A tiny ‘pat pat’ followed by another one, gently coaxing and prodding the soil to release her wormy friends. In no time, the gentle pats had increased in tempo and something that resembled a tap dance commenced. The two seagulls tapped away to their own rhythms, pausing every now and then to peck at the ground.

‘Tap-tap tap tap tap-pat-tap tap tap-peck…’

Concealed below the layers of soil, little worms imagining that the rains had started, squirmed and wriggled themselves out, only to find themselves in the beaks of the seagulls and eventually nourishing its being. Quite the ingenious tactic they’ve employed in procuring a meal, I would say. It’s fairly common, this action of simulating the vibrations of rain drops by tapping feet, but observing it for the first time, the wonder of it all, that “sense of first sight unencumbered by knowingness” as Michael Pollan says in his book, ‘Botony of Desire’, that is something incredible.

Perhaps, it was because they were birds that I even noticed, they’ve always been fascinating; there are definitely several other wondrous things about nature that I probably miss while I’m out on my stroll. But, it’s okay because other people will see it, soak in the awe for a while and maybe write, draw, make music or documentaries about it for other people to read, listen to or watch.

So that they may get a taste of what it felt like but mostly so that it can convey the mind-boggling ways in which nature can play itself out- a self-conducted orchestra, in which humans seem to be playing off tune lately.

Mostly because we imagine we aren’t sounding discordant in the first place, what will it take to zoom out of ourselves and see the disharmony?

Article originally published at The Daily Life Magazine

About the author

Anushikha Bhas has multi-domain experience in the field of life sciences, sport and health with a Master's Degree from the University of Exeter, UK. Her interests span across domains of sport, art, science, literature and creative writing. The ability to convey the beauty of science using narratives and finding interconnections between apparently disparate fields is the core focus of her philosophy of writing.

Social media links

Twitter: acesport_bhas

Instagram: litsciphilart


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