The Chronicles of Kiwi, Part 15
Panhandlers in Paradise

We’ve arrived safely in Tairua, or, “Two Tides” if you wish to be all dull and Captain Cook about it. But “Two Tides” sounds to me like one of those  “loss leader” deals you’d get at Sam’s Club. (Buy 1 Tide and get the second absolutely free!) Let’s stick with the Māori word  – Tairua. It’s  much prettier.

I’ve been scolded more than once on this trip for my benevolent and munificent St. Francis like ways. I find it healing for my soul, pleasing to heaven, harmonically convergent with all of creation, and whatever – to fling leftovers at sea gulls. It’s hilarious. Why just today, while lounging at Sailor’s Grave Beach outside of Tairua, I wandered over and deposited the remains of a fried chicken breast in the midst of a few thoughtful looking gulls. Within seconds the alarm sounded up and down the harbor and that chicken got to fly once more – higher than she ever could in her chicken life. However, it’s a challenge for a gull to fly and eat chicken while also fending off swarms of  dive-bombing colleagues. Inevitably the breast was dropped causing a rugby scrum to ensue on the beach. That chicken breast was chased up and down Sailor’s Grave Beach. That made for a satisfying ten minutes or so. Hmmm…what next? I rooted around in the eats bag and noticed Jan’s half eaten chicken breast…She had gone for a walk. She was out getting in touch with nature in her own way and…Encore!

There are a variety of gulls that inhabit various parts of New Zealand. The most common, and the one I’ve seen the most is the Red-Billed Gull. This gull is a very natty dresser with bright red feet and matching bill, white body, gray and black wing and tail feathers, and  liquid gray eyes. When they squawk it sounds exactly like the first word in James Brown’s tune, “I Feel Good”…that iconic, “YOW!” (Hear here!)

Sea Gulls are nature’s panhandlers. I’ve learned from my experience with human panhandlers that you should never give them your home address. Addresses of Pastors from other churches? – Absolutely. But never, never, never your own. I’m no dummy. That said, I know enough not to feed a gull in the place where I’m actually staying. But one showed up yesterday to test that theory. As I opened the blinds to the back deck, a Red Bill landed on the railing, screamed “YOW”, and we began our stare off.  He was not at all threatened by me. In fact, he seemed rather certain of himself, a bit of a show-off. I could read his mind by his actions:

GULL: “YOW! I bet you didn’t know that I could poop on your deck while standing on one leg. YOW! UH-HUH!  They named a part of the boat after me. YOW! “

ME: “Uh, what part was that? Like the crow’s nest or something?”

GULL: “YOW! Guess again… Now, how about a piece of that bagel? “

ME: “No can do. That would lead to chain migration and one legged hijinks all over my deck.”

GULL: “And you call yourself a Christian? YOW!”

ME: “Yes, yes I do. And the point you’re making is a non sequitur. My Christian faith does not compel me to enable you, but it does give me the freedom to fling chicken bones at the beach….See you down there in a bit.”

GULL: “YOW!” And he flew off.