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Seagull It was a day like most others, except that the mist had a tender feel to it. You know the kind of mist I mean: you turn your face and there's a slight brush of silk against your skin.

I wanted a ferry ride, and to get that you go down to the Embarcadero in San Francisco, where well-scrubbed red and white ferries carry passengers slowly back and forth between the city of cities and a string of picturesque little towns across the Bay.

On a ferry ride you can go to a quiet deck and meditate, if you want to, with the sun splashing warm all over you and the bay tossing wet spray on your face. There's no way to describe how magnificent that feels unless you've gone on a ferry ride yourself. I hope you've done it.

So I found my deck and settled there, and for a while just watched the seagulls stabbing after food bits and having fun being aloft. Seagulls are always aloftier than thou, and they know it. Watching the sleekness of their split-second dives and leaps, I don't blame them for bragging a little.

Then I closed my eyes and yes, there was that reassuring warm pulse from the sun, and the spray, which was jumping with life and willing to include me in. And the hum from the motor: the ferry's heartbeat informing passengers that things were fine and we would arrive intact. It didn't seem like an actual boatride at that point: it felt more like a dream that had edged its way into real life.

Resting there, I thought about something I had done earlier in the week which I now wished I hadn't. It was a minor offense, but it had left a sharp sting in the base of my neck; that's how I knew I shouldn't have done it.

So this is what it was: I had been thoughtless to someone I don't like very well. This person came up and requested a certain file while I was focused hard on another project. My response was -and there is no other way to say this - abrupt and rude. And I wasn't rude because of the interruption, I was rude because I don't like the person very well, and the interruption gave me an excuse to express it.

Shortly afterwards I saw what I had done, got up and took the file over to the person and apologized for my earlier response. All was well.

All was well, except that I was left with noticing how easily I can still be small. That is a very, very uncomfortable feeling. Here I am, walking on the path, closing my eyes each morning to allow in some Light from not-here, and yet here was an opportunity to be slighting and I took it without batting an eye.

You may say: but that is such a small thing. No harm done. And you are right, except we all know it is the small inelegancies which breed our larger ones. And so it is the tiny mistakes that need noticing, as well as the large ones.

So there I was on the deck, looking at how small I had been in that one moment. I don't mean I was calling myself a bad person; I mean I was looking at how small I had been in that one moment.

Meanwhile, despite this earlier mis-step, the sun was still pouring itself over me in great unbroken waves of affection. That's the sun for you: unconditional heat.

Even the bench I sat on was warm and alive. The spray kept saying hello, hello, hello, on my nose and cheeks; not once did it say goodbye.

At one point I sensed a presence quite near to me. I opened my eyes slowly into the brilliant light and there was a lone seagull, settled close to my feet, about to lunch on a stray piece of bread that had fallen down from the deck above.

I looked at the seagull, and it looked right back at me for at least one full minute. I can't actually swear to this, but in the last second, before the seagull shot back into the blue sea above us, I think it winked.

And I knew I had been forgiven.

� Elsa Joy Bailey
Elsa Joy