Where ruby tigers fly

Bad news, bad news, came to me via mail – turn, turn, turn again

Said one of your friends will be travellin’ off to sail – turn, turn to the rain in the wind

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So sky water is calling you again, dear M. Well, you’ll have vast spaces for your thoughts and a platform to communicate them. Here, a new fellow intern is from Vienna, and a friend of hers went to see Joan there too. I love that songs of freedom are sung in what used to be a slaughterhouse. It’s like the prison in Portugal you told me about; the one that was turned into a library.

The music of Wangerooge is of a somewhat different nature. Today we woke up to a howling north-western wind, the kind that occasionally carries one of the rarer sea birds closer to our shores. So off we went and stood on the beach wet, blown about, and excited, involuntarily chewing on a meal of sand, the same stuff that is covering you tip to toe and will forever rain onto your shoulders each time you touch your head. No storm petrel to be seen or anything like that this time, but the waves were magnificent. Plus we already store a dead northern gannet in our freezer anyway (ah, the gallows humour of conservation).

It is most splendid to have nothing but sun, moon, water and birds dictate your working hours in any case. No 9 to 5 drill whatsoever – we’ll do it when the time is right. We take out tourists for some bird-watching at high tides, for example. Most of these guests have an inspiring capacity for sentiments of awe and amazement. And why wouldn’t they be amazed? Even after weeks at the sea, the gliding of a herring gull, and be it the 10 115th, is astounding in its elegance. Timeless and beautiful like the music from your record player. Last time it started raining, so the tour ended in our hut rather than in front of it. My fellow interns feel like they’re living in a fishbowl sometimes and get a little annoyed with IMG_4569the tourists, our hut is quite exposed, but personally I enjoy the odd stranger in the living room wanting to know something about the golden plovers of our most recent bird count, or informing me with a sense of urgency that a baby seal is lying on the beach – keep a distance of at least 300m, and just because it’s lying there doesn’t mean it’s hurt.

Other than that we spent quIMG_4637ite some time in the fields these past few days, looking for bird chicks to see when the mowing can start. Suddenly I saw this little lapwing fella in the hands of our boss, whilst 20 young cows or more were standing right behind us, nibbling our sleeves or drooling on our rucksacks. Human intervention is hugely problematic, but at the end of the day most of our work is aimed at protecting beautiful creatures who, for a large part, are increasingly being driven out of their mainland habitats, and I think that’s nice. Seal breeding stations are probably not a good idea, the planned Wangerooge golf course certainly isn’t, but I won’t get into that now.

In joyous expectation of more musical news of hope, humility, and happiness,

T

PS: It finally happened. One flip-flop gave up just as we were taking dust off a disused fridge with a broom. I meet the ground with naked soles for now, a new splinter in my foot every so often. The thrills of joy and pain are indistinguishable.