One simply can’t go to Lake Superior and not go to Canal Park. There is nothing quite like watching a ship go through the canal and under the lift bridge. There is such an atmosphere of celebration, with kids playing and the birds flying everywhere. Crowds wait patiently for the arrival or departure of the next ship. Anticipation fills the air. It’s like being a kid at the movies for the first time. You almost can’t believe you are really there.
As we waited for the next ship to go through the canal, I watched the people sitting around, trying to keep cool in the afternoon sun, while the little children tried in vain to catch the seagulls and pigeons that were flying around. The seagulls seemed to think it was a game of sorts, or maybe they were just hoping they would have some food for them. And lots of people did. It’s fun to feed the birds, even if the bread they were getting probably isn’t the best food for them. The seagulls would swoop over the people, and then almost hover in place, floating on the breeze, then they would glide down to fly over the water in the canal, before going back to see if anyone had food again. It was such a pleasant flight to watch.
Finally the moment came, and it was announced that a ship was coming in. The bridge started up and as many people as were able moved down to the side wall of the canal to get a closer look. The first ship to go under the bridge was a lake cruise ship. It was interesting, but it was not the spectacular sight I imagined. I just hoped that there would be a big oar boat coming through too. It looked as if I was about to be disappointed, then the announcer said that the Eeborg was about five minutes out. I didn’t see how he could possible make it into the canal within the allotted thirty minute window they had to keep the bridge up. Traffic was backed up from the island on the other side, waiting to come across. Nevertheless, the Eeborg moved much faster than I could have ever expected…especially for such a large ship.
Soon, there it was looming so tall in the canal. It wasn’t a luxury liner, and yet every person there felt the same sense of awe at this amazing ship moving gracefully through the canal, under the bridge, and into the harbor to receive it’s load, before turning around and departing the next day, or later that night. It didn’t even matter if they had seen it a thousand times before, this scene still held them in captivating awe. Some of the ships that come here go all over the world…and their journey starts right there at Lake Superior. The horn sounded, and the Eeborg passed beneath the bridge and eventually out of our line of sight. I felt like I had seen a bit of a far reaching commerce, and it was very exciting.
As a kid, I was probably…different than lots of other kids. While most of my friends were listening to rock and roll, I was too, but I also liked things that were different, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach. When Neil Diamond did his narration, I found the story line very fascinating. Here was a seagull that wanted something different from life. He didn’t want the boring everyday existence, but the extraordinary. That was how I felt. It was quite easy to relate to Jonathan’s desire for excellence and yes, even greatness. He wanted to be remembered for doing something different, and like most pioneers, he was not appreciated for his efforts. The flock was disgusted with him, and threatened to throw him out. His parents were humiliated…horrified even, that their son wanted to be so different. That could sound like lots of parents today, but thankfully not my own, who wanted their daughters to be whatever they chose to be.
I have always loved to watch seagulls. Most of the ones I could watch…around the fast food joints in Casper, Wyoming, were of the same old boring race for food variety, but when you get out on the ocean…and watch them from a ship, it’s a very different thing indeed. Those birds, much like Jonathan Livingston Seagull enjoy flying for the pure enjoyment of flight. I love watching them soar and glide across the sky and swoop down to glide just above the face of the water. As we sailed along, they keep the pace with the ship, almost like they are trying to stay close to the people on board. These were gulls who were doing un-gull-like things. Now, I know that none of these gulls was the famous Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but I have to think that one or two of them might be aspiring to be the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Maybe even a modern day Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who maybe goes by John Seagull, because those full names are so stuffy anyway.
There were lots of seagulls on our trip…the kind who went out by the fishing boats hoping for scraps of food, of course. There were also the ones who hunted for their own food, gliding low over the water, and then swooping down into the water hoping to catch their prey. They even hung out around the whales, although I have no idea what they were hoping to gain by that. Perhaps they thought the whales might stir up the fish, bringing them to the surface for easier hunting. While these gulls were doing what normal gulls do…hunting for food. They were not extraordinary and they were certainly not unique.
The gulls that loved flight were something so different, however. Yes, they swooped into the water for food too, but it did not seem to be the only thing they cared about. Watching them soar across the sky, or try to keep up with the ship, holding their position so they could look into the windows at the passengers, was so interesting. You would think that the ship, or at least the passengers would scare the birds, but they seem drawn to them. It’s almost like they are showing off. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, they seem to be shooting for something outside the norm. And that is what draws my attention to them too.