My home is a capricious dalliance between sanctuary and penitentiary. The invisible, outside world, where one imagines germs and viruses and microbes floating within the yellow sheath of pollen; wear a mask and gloves, keeping barriers and distance, protect yourself, protect others, 200,000 people may die. The visible, inside world where grandbabies replace cries with screams, they pick up, touch, move, and hide everything, play games to see who can slam the door the loudest, and get food everywhere, while the dogs are faithful custodians of the floor. Then there’s the father who disciplines with a marine’s larynx, plays roughhouse and tickle riots, demands clean plates and lavishes his children with my ice cream. My house: a flight of stairs no longer separates above from below and walls no longer categorize inside from outside. When Bart Simpson was asked for an example of a paradox he said, “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.” I get it Bart, I do.
Something becomes imperative when glass shatters. It demands a response, a snap to attention, a head turn, a dash to the kitchen. Or when you’ve dropped a glass, curses and swears become a sort of eulogy. From that horrid sound to eternity, the glass will always be broken. Even if a glass blower reshapes it and puts it back together, it will still have been broken. It will never hold its original, pristine shape again. It will always be broken. The fall from the counter to the floor is irredeemable.
There is something beautiful about brokenness; something aesthetically enduring about it. Beach combers scour for broken glass along the shore. Jewelers use broken glass for earrings necklaces. Artist use broken glass in sculptors and other crafts. I think it was Henri Nounwen who said that glass always shines brightest when it is broken, or maybe he was quoting someone else, I don’t know. But I read that quote over twenty-five years ago and it has always stuck with me.
You don’t need to be told that everything is about the coronavirus. On the news, social media, standing in line at the grocery store, social distancing, hand sanitizer, toilet paper shortages, kids home from school, parents home from work, the market hitting new and newer lows, the coronavirus is between your teeth and no amount of flossing’s going get rid of it. And that is why it’s called a pandemic.
It is curious to see who emails me about the virus. They all want to tell me steps they’ve taken to protect me—they all want to be helpful. FedEx told me they no longer require signatures for most packages. My bank sent me an email talking about drive-thru banking. An exercise fitness thing I get is telling me how to avoid germs at the grocery store. A car dealer (can you believe it?) emailed me about corona, as did an alumni group from a university, the cable company, a charity group in Africa, my natural gas supplier, and on and on I could go.
I don’t know where I saw it first. Facebook or Instagram or maybe it was in a newspaper, but I saw a boat run aground at Oregon Inlet. I knew it had to be photographed. This is how I know there is, however small, something of a true photographer in me: I didn’t see the boat in the picture, I saw the boat as I would photograph it. For an artist, once a vision like that has been captured in the mind, it must be coerced into this world. And in this way, an artist and a disciple of a religious tradition are much the same. The vision is an epiphany, something transcendent grasped in the mind demanding investigation, like a moth singed by the flicker of a candle returning again and again until it is consumed with light. God’s imagination and the muse’s provocations speak with the same charge, the same voice. It is a mystical experience every bit as dramatic and miraculous as a vision from Patmos or by the river Chebar, where the heavens were opened, and Ezekiel saw visions of God.
In the last couple of months, I’ve been to two war reenactments. Being in North Carolina, clearly one of them was a Civil War reenactment. The other was a Revolutionary War reenactment. At both of them, folks dressed in costumes. Some were reenacting musicians, doctors or pharmacists, culinary artist, tailors, and many other trade and craft folks from their respective periods. Mostly, though, the soldiers and rifles, knives and swords and bayonets caught the most attention. They fired their guns and made cannons go kaboom.
Why would people drive from all over to stage such a ceremonious display of pretend violence? Why do people go and watch? And most curiously, what about these folks drawn to put on these events? Why do they do it?
Having talked with many of the reenactors, it is clear most of them are truly history buffs. Some of them are more than historical enthusiast; they are teachers, collectors, professors, and authors. Others have traced family ancestry...
Faithful readers of The Hungry Pelican will have surely noted by now that I haven’t been so faithful about writing. Well, the good news is that my absence cannot be attributed to a drunken, suicidal binge that left me hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated. The truth is, I haven’t really felt like writing. I haven’t felt like forcing some sort of inspirational moment or event so I could write a blog. There’s nothing more exacerbating than forced spirituality. Forced spirituality is the birthplace of clichés and the graveyard of mindfulness. If it isn’t happening, it isn’t happening.
(So, here’s a side thought. You want to know where all this personal Lord and Savior stuff came from? This Jesus is my best friend, this cotton candy Jesus stuff? It came from pastors getting up in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday with nothing meaningful to say; so, they invented these tropes through sheer spiritual boredom and cut their weekly workload in half. Now these pastors just rattle off one clic...
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...
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...
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...
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...