The astonished abyss of the capital letter O

Have you ever seen a ring-billed gull drill for oil? At dawn, she rises from the mudflats, arcs east over the still-dim dunes as the sun's wet gold splashes the sleep-mussed sea oats awake.

She lands at wave's edge and tiptoes the hollow-boned rig of her body into position, facing the unambiguous horizon.

With one foot and then the other, she pummels the sandy lips of the sea. Tiny creatures surface and shimmer in the sunlight: microscopic worms, minute crustaceans unearthed by turbulence overhead. Extraction by massage. She bows her head and fills her beak with breakfast. Manna —a promise kept by her creator. She takes no more than she needs, stores no surplus — a promise she keeps as creature.

Her harvest overflows to those around her. All are flush with her abundance: sanderlings and willets feast; piping plovers skitter in; least terns drop down from thermals. Plus, her dainty technique aerates the flora and fauna beneath her sensitive, unshod feet.

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