Among The Slumbering Birds

The wind was warmish with a touch of humidity with a hint of lake smell on it. The wind blew gentle ripples on the water, enough to make the sails full but little more. My 27-foot sloop moved through the dark and calm waters of the harbours western gap at a slow rate of knots about the speed of a slow stroll. It was silent except for a tiny flapping of the sails almost like the flap of a bird’s wing accompanied by the gentle trickle sound of water as it moved past the hull sounding like the running of a tiny creek.  The dawn was still 2 hours below the horizon, and I was alone.

The city reflected on the calm waters. A mirror image of Toronto on black harbour waters devoid of boats. The absence of sounds from a city of millions still sleeping cast a uniqueness over the moment. I travelled slowly across the harbour, staying close to the island as I steered towards the anchorage at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

I could see the reflection of the city broken up by thousands of what appeared to be black lumps floating on the surface. It was as if I was sailing into rugged terrain. As I glided past, these small blobs slide out of the way making a hole for me to pass through.

I was alone in the harbour making my way through the sleeping quarters of the gulls, ducks and swans that live on the lake coast of Canada’s largest city. There were thousands of birds sleeping as the city slept, unbothered in their own watery sanctuary.

It was unlike anything I had experiencd in Toronto before. The only human being in a city of millions sharing the water with the sleeping water birds of the city. Thousands, probably tens of thousands of birds doing exactly what millions more were doing on shore–sleeping.

I traversed their domain slowly. As I approached the anchorage, I doused the sails and drifted to a stop. The sound of the anchor hitting the water and the chain beating against the rollers frightened the birds nearest and a few took flight which sounded the alarm, black shapes soon filled the air around my tiny sailboat. As fast as they took flight they soon settled accepting the boat and I into their world.

I pumped the alcohol stove to a reasonable pressure and coaxed a small, mostly invisible, blueish flame to life. I heated my kettle and made a cup of tea. In a frenetic world, slow is one of the greatest of gifts. With Earl Grey, two sugars and a dash of milk with cup in hand I sat in the cockpit slowly enjoying each sip as the sky turned from black to the indigo of the pre-sunrise.

The reflection of the city mixed with the hue of an ever-shifting blue as the little blobs floated. As the sun emerged over the horizon, the golden light lit up the city with a beauty of reflected deep rich colours. It was was enchanting, but tinged with melancholy knowing that so few of the people who live Toronto ever get to enjoy or experience this.

As the light grew the small blobs floating in the harbour took flight in clusters to begin their day just as their human counterparts in the city were doing. I finished the last of my tea. Went below deck, tuned off my anchor light, lay in my bunk and drifted off to sleep appreciating the moment spent among slumbering birds.