Audubon says the accurate term for this beautiful bird is “Gull” without the “sea” we are all so familiar with. The inspiration for this painting was actually flying over Old Hickory Lake just out side of Nashville, TN and is a Ring-Billed Gull according to Cornel’s All About Birds. The folklore surrounding gulls or seagulls is fairly thick from music to fables to plays to guitars and more. Why?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a cult classic fable when I was in school because of its theme of the freedom to fly off into a place where one could find one’s self. The Road Less Traveled became a popular book about the same time or shortly there after and we were all into freedom and following a different drummer and all that. The Frost poem became popular again. But how did gulls become the symbolism for that? Neil Diamond created some beautiful music for Jonathan Livingston Seagull that is still moving today. Bad Company recorded a sadly sweet song simply titled, “Seagull.” Neither really tell us why the seagull? Why not a pigeon? Or a robin? Or some other bird? Maybe its the way the gulls seem to soar into the setting sun out over water and back into shore. But that doesn’t explain their rude behavior at picnics and other places where they will swoop down and rip into a bag of potato chips and make off with them before you can get there to scare them off.
You had better not let your guard down around a bunch of Laughing Gulls or they may just grab that phone right out of your hands as this lady nearly found out. Folklore surrounding gulls may be partly to blame for the mysticism. Native American folklore says the seagull is a symbol of a carefree attitude, versatility and freedom according to One Kind Planet. According to Morman tradition, a flock of gulls came down and devoured an invasion of crickets saving the food supply and earning the event the title of “The Miracle of the Gulls” and naming the Seagull as the state bird of Utah. Gulls raise their young in packs of “nurseries” looked over by the males until they are old enough to fly off on their own.
Anton Chekhov wrote a play in 1896, with the title of “Seagull” that I haven’t read or seen and don’t think I want to. The theme of lost opportunities and the clash between generations sounds thoroughly depressing to me. The song by Bad Company with the same title has the line, “You fly through the sky never asking why,” is a little more hopeful than the play and the music is hauntingly beautiful. We may never really know why the gulls are so fascinating and annoying too but does it really matter? We can just enjoy their beauty and sometimes funny personalities.
The description for the book, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” on Amazon says it all with this description: “Jonathan Livingston Seagullis an icon—a phenomenal bestseller celebrating the strength of the individual and the joy of finding one’s way.
This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than ever they dreamed.”
For now, I think I’ll stick with the Richard Bach book as I paint more gulls, following the correct Audubon description and listening to Neil Diamond’s beautiful soundtrack from the movie. But my favorite line on seagulls is from the song by Bad Company, “Into the misty morning sun,” which sort of fits my first Seagull painting at the top of the page.
Here is the complete track to the Neil Diamond sound track to the movie:
Here is the Bad Company song:
And if you get the urge to play one of these songs you can get a genuine “Seagull” guitar from: