“Look, dad, look! It is a tern. A little tern!”
The accent was definitely American. From the West, I’d say. Not that this is relevant except that all day long I had been surrounded by Dutch people. Quite natural since I was in Zeeland (Netherlands). But I was feeling rather frustrated since I do not speak nor understand Dutch.
Finally, friendly words. So much fun to understand what was being said around me.
But sorry, guys. The bird was NOT a little tern. I know, I know. I love birds a lot and throughout the years, I have become quite used to distinguish a lot of different species.
And this “little tern” was definitely a big European herring gull, the “carrion eater” that has invaded all our coastal areas to inland towns.
This one was looking triumphant indeed. People stopped by. It was not afraid. Herring gulls are used to human beings. Terns are not. They are hard to spot except when they are flying and fishing around. And indeed a very protected species.
The impostor was posing for posterity. So many people were stopping by to take its picture.
One little tern because... Because it says so, so there!
Deceptive advertising. Quite a joke actually! Except for a few people who will go home very happy to have spotted a tern in Zeeland... Imagine!
That day Zeeland was a lot of fun for a storyteller.
Zeeland means “Sea land”. Land that has been won over the sea with great efforts and determination for centuries. This is a very lovely area where sea, man-made lakes and vast expanses of land meet everywhere.
Sailboats and windmills and flowers and food crops and cattle breeding and birds and birds and birds.
Zeeland is a dream place for ornithologists. It is. An excellent place of rest for migrating birds. I’ll never forget the evening when close to Tholen, I think it was, thousands of brant geese landed by us on their way from Siberia to Northern Brittany.
You can still see thousands of birds at the end of spring with their young. Lovely, lovely.
You probably remember this very interesting story by Hans Christian Andersen: “The Ugly Duckling”.
We were told the story when we were young in order to assuage our growing pains. Everyone can be transformed into a much better person and find one’s place in life after all. Sobering, wasn’t it?
Here is Walt Disney’s version... just for fun!
Well, in Zeeland, this beautiful story is not really truthful! I have evidence that in real life, a cygnet is raised by its parents, Mr and Mrs Swan!
And by its parents only!
The indirect consequence being that it knows from the start that it is beautiful! And emotionally secure!
Why should we start life the hard way, experiencing rejection and inferiority complexes?
I still can’t forget my mother’s witticism she’d repeat ad nauseam. Since I was not exactly her dream daughter (none of her children ever came up to her expectations), she claimed that I was found in a dumpster. How sad for me that she was the one to find me.
Another thing I was reminded of: “Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” even when there are no fences. Only natural barriers.
We stopped by a stretch of the sea not too long after entering Zeeland. So typical of the area. Sea and land so intertwined that there is nothing unusual about watching sailboats gliding along fenceless pastures where a herd of cattle grazes peacefully.
That day, some Limousin cows did find the grass greener on the other side even though they had to cross a small and shallow stretch of sea water to reach their new dream meadow which looked more like a copse than a real pasture.
So maybe it is very true that the grass is always greener elsewhere... no matter what kind of grass we’ll end up finding. This does account for our willingness to move and travel around and change course so many times in our life.
Just like those cows that eagerly crossed sea water to make their dream of greener pastures finally come true...
*Good Luck, and Good Night*