Once upon a time, in another life, I tried to write a poem about pelicans, and it began like this:

“Once I stood on packed sand still
dark with the receding tide on an afternoon
that couldn’t decide not to be winter,
on a barrier island named for wild horses,
at the dune-drifted, grass-whispered margin
of the Gulf of Mexico…”

After this point, the words changed and shifted like shoals every time I looked at it. It was never right. The poem hemmed and hawed and finally got around to trying to describe the birds that remind me so much of pterosaurs. Every time I see the creature, I travel back to the Cretaceous in my mind:

 “Pelicans slip the air streams
like ancient machines perfectly designed
for what they need to do, all hooked
bill and hollow bone, sailed wings sending
shadows ripping across the waves…”

Or something like that. I put the poem away, unfinished, with all my poems years ago. Now I take pictures. So here are a few photos of my favorite bird, the brown pelican. I think they have inspired me to try to finish the poem. (Maybe.)

It’s amazing how a creature that is so graceful and strong in the air, like a glimmer of prehistory reminding me of the largest flying creatures the world has ever seen, becomes kind of cute and dorky when he’s waddling around on the land.

Just for the curious: The first 3 photos were taken in Edisto Beach in SC last August and the last 2 were taken at the Outer Banks in April.

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  1. You’ve gotten the photos I’ve envisioned for myself. Beautiful! Aren’t they incredibly dinosaurian?

  2. Kate

     /  August 6, 2012

    Herons make me think of dinosaurs, too. Great photos!

  3. Such beautiful and graceful images of a fascinating bird! Their symbolism throughout history is equally fascinating, too… ♥

  4. Oh, I love that black-and-white one at the top. Great shot. Your poem will come to you. Maybe on the beach one day.

  5. Love them both. Just take out the dot dot dots at the end and enjoy two separate short poems.

  6. mthew

     /  August 6, 2012

    Love watching them dive, plunging into water that looks too shallow for their enormous bills. That cool russet color on the napes of their neck is breeding plumage.

    • I love watching them dive too! Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten close enough to get good shots yet. I didn’t realize that was breeding plumage. Thanks for pointing it out!

  7. Beautiful. I am always so astonished by your pictures. They are great. Especially love the beach ones….I’m a beach girl, it pulls at my heart even though I don’t live there.

  8. Yay! Love the shots, can’t wait to hear the completed poem!

  9. Paul J. Stam

     /  August 7, 2012

    Great photos, great words. Being graceful is not dependent on good looks, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the action is in the hands of the doer. How graceful in flight, how ponderous on land.

  10. Hi, it’s the Struggler’s wife.
    Beautiful pelican pictures!
    Every time we go to California, I take way too many pictures of pelicans; they are fascinating.
    I especially love it when they fly in formation, just above the waves.
    Thanks for your writing — you are one of my top favorite blog writers.

    • Struggler here. What she said.

    • Thanks, Struggler’s Wife! High praise from the wife of one of my favorite funny writers. I’m honored that you enjoy FIME. And I know what you mean about watching pelicans fly. I am endlessly fascinated by their formations and how close they skim the waves. I’ve also taken a gazillion photos of them. Relatively few good ones, but I have fun doing it.

  11. Awesome! Both poem and the pictures. I would make it more time-and placeless by not mentioning the Gulf of Mexico and the island named after horses. It brings the reader too much back to earth. You want to stay soaring up there in your beautiful language.


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