Lessons from Seagulls

It has been one HOT summer here in SoCal, with a record breaking 120 degrees and over 70 days of 100+ degree temperatures.

This was a first for me!  In the 15 years of having a place near the desert, this is the first summer I have really spent here.  BC (Before Covid), I would have been back east visiting family, working with clients, and enjoying the beach.

There comes a point where the body and the soul say, enough is enough. That’s where I got to. To say I was giddy as I loaded the car with Lysol, wipes, and the ultraviolet light to head for the coasts of Santa Barbara, would be an understatement.


I arrived on Sunday to a lovely beach front duplex. Due to Covid, they were only renting out one side at a time which made it feel like I had the whole place to myself. It didn’t take long for me to unwind as I heard the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore, felt the cool breeze blowing through my hair and an inner knowing that fall would soon be coming by the crispness in the air. To quote a song from the movie, Shawshank Redemption, I was singing “I’m in Heaven” as I picked up one of the four books I brought to read.

I went out to feed the gulls the next morning, even before I had coffee. The fog was just beginning to lift and there were no gulls or pelicans in sight.

I pinched off a piece of hot dog bun and tossed it into the air aimlessly, as if some part of me could “will” them to come. Out of nowhere, a lone gull glides in, picks up the bun and approaches me… cautiously, but confidently.

As the waves lap the shore, I hear an unseen gull sounds the signal: “Breakfast is here!” The ground in front of me is soon covered with 20-25 gulls. Some stand closely as if being first in line will ensure that next bite is theirs. Some peck at their fellow gulls as if to say, this is my territory – stay away. A few scurry to the outer rim apparently not wanting to be in the chaos. Their eyes seem to say, please I just want one bite.

As I stand completely still and throw food into the air, I observe. Is it the younger ones who scramble to the front, or the biggest ones, or the males? Is it the small ones or the darker colored ones? There seems to be no pattern or status.

As I continue to feed, their individual behaviors surface even more. Some step away when food comes near as if they aren’t quite sure what to do with it. Other gulls come rushing toward the food even if they are nowhere close to it. Some try to be the first to get there, while others try to take it away from another gull. Some squawk to scare others away, while others drop their heads and move farther away.

We have more in common than you think

In the coolness of the morning surrounded by these amazing creatures, I was struck by the similarities between the gulls and us as humans.

  • Which of us is the first to get there or to come up with an idea?
  • Do we seize the opportunity or wait for others who are more confident to take the lead?
  • Do we lose what could have been ours because of our own insecurities or lack of confidence?
  • Are we willing to share?
  • Do we operate from a place of abundance believing there Is plenty for all?
  • Or from a place of scarcity, waiting for what little scraps may come our way?
  • Are there others watching us the way I watched theses gulls?
  • What do our behaviors say about us?
  • Are we a good team player or acting like a selfish bully, looking out only for ourselves?
  • Do we take the time to teach, coach and mentor so others can learn and grow?
  • Do we earn respect by modeling good behaviors?
  • Are we feeding others or teaching them to fish?

I think the real message is how much we can learn if we slow down long enough to look, listen, and reflect.  Then comes the hard part… will these be fleeting thoughts or will we incorporate the lessons into our lives and share our insights with others to make positive changes in ourselves and in the world.


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  1. P Marlin

    Excellent. We humans are not far from our animal instincts. Greed seems more prevalent than cooperation.

  2. lauren tranross

    It’s amazing when we take time to watch, listen, connect the dots and react accordingly. Quieting the mind, revisiting nature and resonate on the simplicity of life are so essential to refilling our cup. Thank you for sharing this story Joan.

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