A stiff ocean breeze swept past me, carrying with it the delighted chirps of those couples who had already been reunited. Their affection drove my gaze back to the sky, where I was desperate to find any sign of my beloved.
After several hours, the sprawling form of a female with her wings at full stretch glided towards the rocky shoreline. Could this be? Had my dearest, survived the hardships of a year at sea to return to the place we had professed our love so long ago?
She landed, and I started toward her. But I had only taken a few steps forward before I realized the patterns on her wings were not those of my love. I watched as she strode up the shore, her lover meeting her halfway in a foot-pattering show of affection.
The sky grew darker as several more hours drifted past with the prevailing coastal wind. The others were now nestling in for the night, tucking their heads into one another’s breasts.
Still I looked to the sky, but as the light faded, so did my chance of being reunited with my beloved. Survival out at sea was a challenge not every Albatross managed to overcome. I knew that to be true. Each year that I left this island, I knew it might be the last time I would ever see the love of my life. But each year, she had returned to me.
Devastated, I tucked my head into my wing and tried to put the images of her returning out of my head. But the memories were powerful and my longing for her touch was insatiable. It was almost as if I could hear her calling to me–chirping her love in the tones unique to her alone. Her voice was beautiful. And the memory of it was so real I had to look, feeling like a hopeful fool for doing so.
She had already traversed half of the cragged shoreline by the time I looked up. I flapped my wings to move to her more quickly than my feet could carry me. All the fear and anxiety melted away as we clacked our beaks together in greeting. Against all of nature’s odds, she had come back to me.
Knowing in my heart I was the luckiest being alive, I led her back to the place I had prepared for us. She moved close and rubbed her head against my neck and breast, settling in to rest after her long flight.
It was for this moment that we lived. For this moment that we answered nature’s call to survive.