Late afternoon. Bastendorff Beach. Cape Arago. Few people. Low tide. Golden light. I walk and run and embrace one word salutations.  I have no idea where this will lead, until I find the still living Rhinoceros Auklet chick.

GULLS are gallant the way they gallivant. Strut and swagger. Puff and palaver.gulls

FOOTPRINTS delineate, stake claims, celebrate prehensile toes until the next wave.footprintsCORMORANT washed up, eyes unseeing, bony breast aching for the fish that were too few and the upwelling that was too little.pelagic cormorant-deadCLAMSHELL breaks in beauty, casts sunrise, ripples, and dreams in repeating lines.clam shellWATERMELON hollowed out like a pool, the unbelonging of sweet, juicy fruit excavated and cast away.watermelon in sandSNAKE that is a seaweed slithers a sinuous flourish.snake shape seaweedCHICK that lives, eyes alert, too weak to stand. Nothing else matters, but the immediacy of a Rhinoceros Auklet. I scoop up the warm, breathing bird and all words fall away, except this–PROTECT.Auklet chickWhat happens next?  Nature must take its course, but not here, not where dogs race on Bastendorff Beach. I take the chick in my car, tucked inside a canvas bag to feel safer and dark. Seeking calmer waters, I drive to the Charleston Harbor–out past the boats where there’s a sheltered beach. Place the chick on the sand. The chick raises one wing, then another, kicks, but cannot stand. Take off my shoes. Pick up the chick. Wade into the deeper waters with little current and gently give a toss. The chick swims! But then? A young gull flies in to inspect. I hurl a rock at the gull. The gull flies off. The chick paddles on until…  out of nowhere a bald eagle wheels in with talons outstretched. I gasp. No! Three gulls chase the eagle away and do not return. The chick bobs in the water so alone. Life is uncertain. Perilous. Fragile. Biologists focus on populations, on the big picture of trouble in the oceans and I understand,  and every little life in trouble pierces my heart.auklet swims