Brent Livingood

Faith, Photography, & Words

The Hungry Pelican 

Exploring Creation Through the Lens of Faith and Creative Writing

October 26, 2019

For all the outdoor activities I do, camping, hiking, living on a deserted island for days by myself, I’ve never really considered myself an outdoorsy person. Okay, I tend to favor outdoor clothing, and I do shop at REI; I display my lifetime saltwater fishing license on Beans (my truck) because we should all hunt or gather some of our food, and I’ve got a bright orange hunter’s vest stowed behind the driver’s seat (not because I hunt but because I shoot butterflies or wildflowers in game lands). 

     But really, I’m an indoor person: plucking away on my laptop, looking up words and spellings and grammatical rules, which I usually break or get wrong anyway, reading long-dead mystics and other susurrating voices. Legs kicked up on the desk, my second cup of cinnamon-sprinkled caffeine steaming on my distressed coffee stand, window blinds opened, watching joggers, walkers, and school buses go by: right there, that is my perfect day. Why is it, then, that last week I packed up my tent and...

October 8, 2019

Last week, I went to this zoo that’s not exactly a zoo. It’s a place called Tiger World. While I don’t know much about it, Tiger World bills itself as a preserve or refuge for various animals. Some of the animals have found their way to Tiger World through zoo closings or downsizes or, and, apparently this is true, (well, maybe it’s true,) some people keep exotic pets until the landlord or the neighborhood says Tigger and Mufasa have to go. 

     At any rate, it made for a good opportunity to get some unique pictures. At first, I was disappointed. The animals were all caged. (Had I been expecting them to be uncaged?) But it was worse. Many of the animal cages were separated from the viewers by a second fence several feet away from the cage. They were caged inside of a cage. The more I looked at the animals and the cages, it became apparent that some animals were caged more than others. 

     Take the tiger pacing back and forth, about to explode with frustra...

September 14, 2019

I don’t want to give you a news report, so suffice it to say, Dorian destroyed the Bahamas. Who didn’t ask where God was? Who dying underneath a pile of rubble didn’t cry out for God’s help? In those last bits of lucid consciousness, who didn’t feel the release of God’s clasp and the resignation of life to naught?  

     A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but [Jesus] was asleep.

     Once the storm started moving again and it was determined that Alabama wasn’t ever going to hit Alabama, Angela and I started to do our storm-prep work. Buy water, buy can goods, get batteries, and an extra propane tank. With the unending aftermath of Florence still fresh on our minds, the cone of uncertainty felt fated to run railroad through our community, again. After all, we had just seen what it did to the Bahamas. Could we take it again?

     Angela decided she would shelter-in-place at the hospital where she...

August 9, 2019

When you’re copping off heads, it helps to have a serrated knife. I didn’t, so I more or less mashed my fillet knife through fish bones on the top of a flipped-over bucket I had gotten from Lowes. The weather was

cool for late July. The Atlantic was unwinding a low tide. The only thing to see up or down the beach were mirages.

     I had caught a couple of mullets and blues in the surf, but they didn’t satisfy my itch. I wanted a big fish, something larger, much larger. I wanted something I could fight. Something I could battle. A conquest. So, I started chopping off fish heads.

     I had finally done it. For years, at least as long as I’ve had Beans (my 4-wheel-drive truck), I’ve wanted to camp

on the South Core Banks. I had finally arrived, scooting down the single, sand path, surrounded by sea oats, egrets, ibises, roped-off turtle nest, and shells. South Core is a part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. South west of Ocracoke, due east of Morehea...

July 29, 2019

Starting photography, I found, was much like fishing. It started simple enough: a good experience, surpassed expectations, the organic feel–an intuitive practice revealing purpose and potential at once. If it (fishing, photography, or whatever) stirs latent proclivities, you won’t take long to become a cash-strapped student labored with particulars and new Facebook groups.

    When that first mackerel doubled over my fishing pole, nearly catapulting my fishing cart off the pier, time stopped. My vision narrowed. Only this fish and I existed. A concretized-transcendent affair, at once serendipitous and designed. Rapturing. Rapturing, I say again so you will get how singularly absorbed and concentrated I was.

    In that moment, I knew why the fight lengthened seconds to minutes. The very meaning of life was drawn out, the struggle for it, the conflict of it. One life to sustain another. The fight was grandiose and cosmic. At the same time, though, the fish’s role, my role,...

July 12, 2019

Do you remember the first time you stood ankle deep in the ocean before dawn? The sinking feeling and splash of vertigo hypnotized as you watched an infinitely speckled sky fade into a single star? Or the time goosebumps crawled on your skin as strings softly yielded to a horn’s elegiac solo? Or that time you went to the Glacier National Park or Machu Picchu or some other breathtaking view you had only seen in travel magazines and National Geographic: Do you remember that sense of awe? Shocked and strangely gratified by your tininess, your splendid insignificance. The flash of comprehension, the joy of existence reimagined. You liaised in emergence, that half-glimpse into the eternal. You recognized your soul tethered to a body, a body scaffolded by particles of dust and dirt. You returned home and looked through an old photo album as you would look through a recursive reflection.

     Since Trump took office, I haven’t felt the slightest inclination to visit this country’s capital. So...

June 21, 2019

Standing on the stony coast, winter’s fading nip in the air, I was surprised how quickly I no longer heard the water pummeling the rocks. I tinkered with my aperture and shutter speed. Occasionally, I’d glance up to see a wave spray like a geyser. Maybe the Pacific was rowdier than usual, or maybe this was the way it stays: one wave after another, giant water balloons bobbing up and down until they burst against the rocks. I could’ve felt sorry for the ocean. With all of its might, brooding, and daunting size, the Pacific ran out of its depths, and the rocks punished every effort.

     My time in Oregon was counting down quickly. I was booked on the redeye; by the math, factoring in such things as a rental return, TSA, repacking bags, one or two hours to be comfortable, et cetera, I had nearly ten hours to pull off and wander around taking photographs. I wanted to see as much as I could. I stopped at beaches, lighthouses, a waterfall, one-hundred state parks (more or less), and God only...

June 11, 2019

    

A couple weeks ago, my wife came to me and asked, “Do you want to go to Oregon?”

     “Uh, yeah,” I said. Who wouldn’t want to go? Wandering around the Cascades, wayfaring stony coastlines, hiking the snowy rim of a long-extinct volcano. But that is not what Angela had in mind. Nearly a year ago, Angela’s pregnant daughter, my step-daughter, loaded up a Penske with her new husband, a pit bull/bonkers hybrid and a puppy Rottweiler, two babies (ages 1 and 2-3 months), and all the belongings a young, cash-strapped newlyweds had. That was a year ago. Now, the new baby has entered the world and there were complications. So Angela dispatched me like a nursemaid to help with brand-new baby Alexander’s older brothers.

     Now, I don’t want to make any sweeping declarations about babies, and I should admit my own inadequacies to the subject: I adopted my son when he was three years old, and Angela’s children were teenagers when I mantled the title: step-father. Chang...

April 28, 2019

     Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death are accounted for by eyewitnesses, and, even if they weren’t as much eyewitness accounts as they were narrative imperatives, the gospel writers obliged themselves to memorialize these happenings. That’s not to say they did it uniformly. While Matthew tells of kings and Luke notes shepherds, Mark skips the whole birth narrative entirely to bring us into the mind of a locust-eating, cameled-hair-clothed baptizer. John, on the other hand, introduces Jesus as the Word, and whatever else that might be, it near trivializes shepherds and kings by comparison. Luke shares the good Samaritan; Matthew gifts us with the beatitudes; John makes everything poetic and mystical. Matthew and Luke start their gospels like a student writing a late-night-due-tomorrow essay, and John is cosmically braggadocios. Mark, on the other hand, composes a great first sentence, The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the son of God. (Where’s the verb...

April 10, 2019

I have my ghost stories. We all have them.

     When I was a teenager, fourteen years old or so, I was out with a collection of friends looking for the specter of a tormented soul. It was October, several days before Halloween, and had rained earlier in the day, not much but enough to get everything slick and colder feeling. The sky was uncannily backlit by a near full-moon with brooding clouds casting the umbra of wraithlike tree.  Accosted by poor choices, the crisp wind brought mid-autumn goosebumps. Leaves flurried down from the trees, caught in currents and drafts making them look like life rafts floating between worlds.

     We had parked behind a haunted house, or so the older kids had told me, and hiked through the steep wooded backyard, crunching leaves with every step. The backside of the house was too dark, shaded by every moon-born shadow imaginable in the scarce cloud-breaks. We placed our hands on the side of the abandon house. Maybe we thought...

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