The Hungry Pelican 

Exploring Creation Through the Lens of Faith and Creative Writing

December 31, 2018

     Given the Holy Family traveled around the time of Christ’s birth, it strikes me as a bit ironic that we seem fixated with being home at Christmas time. Think no further than “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” or “Baby, Please come home for Christmas.” And when Madonna (get it? Madonna!) sings “Santa Baby,” the chimney is presumably her chimney. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never be brought to mind? Home permeates these weeks until the New Year is breached.

     For all my efforts to write about traveling to mountains or beaches or swamps, my favorite place in the world is home. I don’t have a great big house. I’m not a great interior decorator. My garage doors don’t open and close on their own, the front door somehow lost some parts and bangs shut with every open, the yard looks like it has been strangled by winter, and the chalkboard calendar still thinks it’s November. 

     My house is the exact same floorplan as my neighbor’s house a...

December 16, 2018

     Daily, the sun blinks out of existence in the late afternoon. The winter solstice nears. Darkness expands, reaching, grabbing, emptying the world of light like a short-tempered man taking out the trash. I loathe this world, this current darkness. And given how many lights people are putting on trees and poles and railings, in windows, dangling from gutters, it seems like everyone else itches to escape the darkness too. 

     It’s the negative space, the place between the lights, that’s the problem. And no matter how much we may feel lifted by Christmas carols or swanky, commercial jingles, the sky is more dark than light, more night than day. Those spaces between the pin-head sized points of light are vastly greater than we can imagine. The darkness goes forever and in every direction. And isn’t that our biggest fear? We are afraid of nothing. Or, perhaps better stated, we’re afraid of the nothing we came from and the nothing that’s everywhere – the nothing, our fear...

November 12, 2018

     The tree, so perfectly silhouetted, a likeness of Form: once prefiguring, then fastened with God, and now foreshadowing, it pines for the attention of a passerby. The tree is that first tree, the tree long ago, unheeded, sequestered, then forfeited to myth and parable. Still standing, casting the shadow of humanity’s paltry caprice – undesired wisdom, unwanted grace: the tree gives what we don’t want, and what we want the tree cannot give.

     Can we see it today? The centerpiece of Christian symbols, the laurel hung over our shoulders, the ashes burning our foreheads? Is it not too that first tree? The way we are the first Adam, the first Eve: a great, great granddaughter tree descended from a simple garden tree? A shoot out of Jesse’s stump. The tree with a Christ nailed to its trunk, arms stretched on slivered branches. And if we can see that garden tree, and the tree fertilized with lashed, sinewy God, can we glimpse beyond this one dimension, this linear line, jump...

October 20, 2018

     Morning time in the swamp pours like honey. The first hint of light serrates the darkness; shadows pliantly chip into opaque shapes. Coolness begins a torpid retreat. Nocturnal unfamiliarity surrenders to the squabbling of squirrels and chatter of songbirds. In my tent, I can hear deer slowly step, crunching dried leaves and snapping brittle sticks. 

     I am at Merchants Millpond State Park in the northeastern corner of North Carolina, a thirty-five-minute drive to the Great Dismal Swamp. My goal today is simple: explore both swamps.

     Walking through the woods, I’m always looking at my feet. I’m not looking for snakes or mudpuddles, but the small, overlooked, the unnoticed: these are the things of beauty here. The green-hewed bark of a tree with lacey patterns resembling nothing else in the universe. The light-caught tips of some sort of fern whose leaf is called a pinnatifid, which I know only because the park offered a brochure on ferns. Bl...

September 22, 2018

     

     If I had known I would be digging graves in my backyard, I would have evacuated for the hurricane.

     We did what everyone does when a hurricane catches the attention of meteorologists; we waited and watched and didn’t get too concerned until about five days before predicted landfall. Hurricane Florence had bull’s-eyed our two-stoplight fishing village community, and she was a beast. We bought water and water and waffle-cut potato chips and almonds and cashews and caseloads of Coke Zeros; and then we bought more water, and, when the store ran out of water, we bought cranberry juice and various Gatorades; oh, and my favorite: beef jerky – the sausage kind and teriyakied or peppered or both – and soup: Chicken with Whole Grain Pasta Noodle, Grilled Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, Chicken & Cheese Enchilada, Creamy Chicken Alfredo with Pasta, and we bought chicken in a can; and when the store resupplied water, we bought a few more gallons just to be on the saf...

September 12, 2018

     My house smells like a pet store. Or maybe a dog kennel. It is the smell of three dogs who dislike baths but love to play, shed, and nap on top of each other. I’ve gotten use to the smell, mostly. But when I’m away for several days and then come back through my front door, the doggie aroma stands as thick as sea fog. But it is a smell worth living in to have my three doggies greet me at the door, shaking their tails, all doggie smiles.  

     Amy Dog’s best friend was our first dog, Walker Dog, who is sometimes called Wok Wok or Walkie Talkie; her legal name, if a dog can be said to have a legal name, is Walker Percy Livingood because she’s as Southern as Tennessee Williams and sweet tea. Amy Dog’s greatest admirer was our oldest dog, and most recent addition, Smudge. The three dogs formed an unlikely pack of bacon-loving, sofa-sleeping, pizza-delivery-man attacking companions.

     Walker Dog is a treeing walker coon hound dog, which accordin...

August 31, 2018

     A languid mood occupied Wrightsville Beach at seven in the morning. A few cars paraded the streets. Shopkeepers unlocked grocery marts and souvenir stores. Even the perfectly chiseled joggers passed along the sidewalks as breezy afterthoughts of a concluding summer. For many still curled up in their hotel rooms, it was the last days of vacation before school started; the last chance to enjoy the snooze button. For the early risers, it was the last chance to enjoy a coffee while boats plodded along the Intracoastal Waterway.

     I parked my truck a couple of streets past Roberts Market, loaded my camera bag, and started hiking to the beach. I was there to photograph a surfing event – something about autistic children surfing. I figured it would be a small thing, maybe a couple of dozen people giving and receiving surfing lessons. No big deal. It had been weeks since I was out of the house early in the morning to do photography, so even a little event was going to be...

August 26, 2018

     The creative life is the greatest life you shouldn’t bother with if you have a choice. It comes at you, stampeding down the slopes of your mind, crashing into the walls of your heart, commanding you to write, paint, dance, or matriculate through any other innumerable displays of creativity. You become the pen, the mouthpiece, the brush, the embodiment of art, and this sensation tickles such a delight that you only vaguely notice art’s scheming plot of dependence. It has you, trapped in a mosh pit of high-toned frenzy and need. And then, after infatuation has fatigued into a more manageable routine of custom and penchant, art’s caprice withdraws from the mind and heart leaving nothing but frustration and insatiable cravings.

     This begs a question. Is art a form of spirituality or is spirituality a form of art? For who hasn’t enjoyed a span of communion, emphasized and distinguished by invocations and benedictions, the numinous sacred breaching profane monotony, only to...

June 27, 2018

     You would think birds would be the main attraction on Bird Island. But they aren't. The main reason most people hike to Bird Island is to see a mailbox.

     I turned right on Highway 17, breached clumps of thick fog, and scooted over the shrouded Cape Fear River. I wanted to get to the beach while the fog still lingered, before the harsh light bleached away the natural colors and textures of the shore. And I wanted to find this Bird Island. 

     I drove around the Sunset Beach area, which was supposed to be near Bird Island, but couldn’t find a sign to the avian paradise. Google Maps was no help; MapQuest was no help. But I found someone staring at an alligator. He had pulled off the road and was bent over with his hands braced against his knees, glaring at an alligator. This might seem an odd thing to find and even a more ridiculous thing to seek help from, but, really now, with all the weird things that have happened to me, I didn’t think...

June 12, 2018

     I’ve run out of ideas. I bounce from one notion to another. Maybe, I think, I’ll write a on flowers. But no, that’s dumb, another essay on flowers. God help me. I’m tired of flowers. It seems like all I do is photograph flowers. And that’s not the worst thing about flowers. The worst thing about flowers is feeling like your photograph is generic. Flowers start to look like nothing more than greeting card material. Why am I tired of something I love? 

     I won’t write about flowers. But what then? 

     I can write about rain. All it has been doing lately is raining. Just one summer storm after another. I have to keep mowing the yard now that we are in the summer, and these rain storms, maybe three or four a day, keep the yard wet and soppy like a well-manicured swamp or something. But how do you photograph rain? I think I could take pictures of wet flowers. You know, the sort of flowers that look dripping wet from a storm. But then I’m back...

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