At Home With The Pelicans

??????????????????????As I recover from the removal of my second cataract, I find myself drawn to the pelicans that bask on the pier at the Inner Harbor Park. Without the little dogs, I am accepted. The relaxing birds are not threatened by my slow approach. With silent steps I move closer, fascinated by what I can see through the camera’s eye.

I went the first time two days after the surgery, weary of being inside, needing movement and the beauty of nature to remind me of my place in the dance. The left eye was still very sensitive, the pupil not yet adjusting to light. Yet my need to be nourished by the awkward grace of these creatures was greater than my lingering frailty. I needed to focus on something more than my self in order to realize myself.  Besides, nature heals. I know from experience that recognition of my spiritual connection with nature makes me feel more alive.

Why pelicans? Well, I admit to going first to a Japanese Magnolia, knowing that the blooms would not last very long. Their fleeting beauty would be a pleasure to photograph. Then walking back to the place where I had left my car, I thought of the pelicans. I have seen them so many times when walking the dogs…just on the other side of the harbor, tempting me to use my inadequate zoom. Without the dogs to limit my proximity. I could drive around and park near to the place they gather. I was free and they were there.

But now that I have experienced their nearness, and the charm of their inimicable behaviour, it is more than their availability, more even than how priviledged and fortunate I felt to be among these wild beings. In a sense, I could share their sudden and inexplicable urge to soar, to swim, to return, to stretch, to cackle at a neighbor that came too near. The more I lingered, the more patient I was about aiming and taking shots, the more I felt that I belonged. I was almost at home with the pelicans as they went about their simple mode of existence. And they know when to rest, when to huddle down close to the warm boards of the pier, even if they need to keep a watchful eye.

When I finally left them that evening my new eyes seemed to have undergone some sort of initiation or christening. I took home with me a frisson of joy that would spark again when I looked at the photos the next day on my computer screen. Here they were: my friends with their gorgeous feathered raiment, their clumsy stance, their penetrating gaze.  I admired again the strange beauty I had walked amongst, the gestures I had witnessed. I thought of my father, wading amongst them on Horn Island, clipboard and pencil in hand, and felt I understood his long-standing passion for this particular bird. My heart soars with a sense that I may have landed in the strange new land Walter Anderson spoke of in his Horn Island Logs “…where everything I see is new and strange.”

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4 Responses to “At Home With The Pelicans”

  1. Kendall Says:

    These two portraits are two completely different visions of these birds, these amazing, rare, funny, mysterious birds. The first is defended but curious, exquisitely detailed, peering at you. The second is open, moving, riding the wind but grounded, like airth. Beautifully written, a prose poem to these strange, and yes, new birds.

  2. Brent Funderburk Says:

    Frission! The urge to fly! Awkward Grace! You serve up intimations of your new vision; it is the inner eye that is new.

  3. leiflife Says:

    You so understand my making of this blog…photo choices and all. Thank heaven for one who knows me so well, knows and recognizes what went into the making of me.

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