l have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.
William Shakespeare Hamlet
Friends of the Libraries Competition 2017
The theme of The Friends of the Kapiti Coast District Libraries Literary Festival 2017 was The Play’s the Thing.
Participants in the competition had to write a short, dramatic monologue or dialogue in no more than 500 words.
Here is the third placed entry from Elizabeth Farris. (Banded Dotterel painting by Cushla McGaughey.)
Standing at the Edge of the World
Officially, I’m called a warden. Others use the word caretaker, babysitter, nanna. I’ll agree to the last one. I’m a nanna and my adopted grandchildren are a clutch of three eggs. Olive coloured, dappled in brown spots. They sit in a wee depression on a sand dune, down the beach. Soon to hatch into precious native New Zealand Dotterels, the area’s roped off and is signposted. We’ve a roster of volunteer nannas of all ages and genders, to guard them.
You’d think my job would be boring, eh? But no, it isn’t. I patrol the area, greet every holidaymaker, ask that dogs be leashed. Point out the signs that say STAY CLEAR OF THIS AREA. Most don’t have an inkling of what a dotterel is, or why we protect them from disturbance either from cats or rats or humans. They must be allowed to hatch, be cared for by their parents, to restore the population until they’re no longer endangered.
When there’s no one about, I rest on a driftwood log just above the high tide mark. It’s about six metres away from our newest nesting pair and their clutch of three eggs. I watch the sunrise and the foamy procession as the tide inches closer. The ocean is never silent; it booms and rumbles, slams itself against the beach. The shimmering waves are a gift delivered over and over again. A receding tide is an automated cleansing of debris. And when it returns, it often delivers another collection of gentle weathered driftwood for people to pick through. Sometimes there are stoat skulls. Fishy odours caught in the tangled mess of slippery kelp.
On most days the sun shines; on others it’s absent. But the tide is perpetual, predictable, measurable, always churning. The ocean will deliver waves upon this beach for all eternity. And our long-enduring dotterels will hatch and find mates to nest safely above the high water mark and continue their cycle of life.
Last night I had a dream that I arrived at my job to find the driftwood log had shifted, it was skewed slightly to the north.
The shoreline had been redesigned and the sand was replaced by pumice rock and plastic water bottles. The posted warning signs were gone. The protective ropes were missing. The nest with the three precious eggs . . . disappeared.
The sunrise had been exchanged for a sea rise. The ocean was soupy and coarse rubble floated on top like remnants of the last remaining bits of life.
I am well aware that changes are coming.
We all have been warned.
The dotterels, however, are oblivious. They take up residence just above the high tide mark. They assume the ocean and the earth will be as consistent as it always has been.
I stand here wondering. When? How long do we have? How much time do the dotterels have?
I stand here. And a plastic bag gets caught between my jandals.