The Hungry Pelican 

Exploring Creation Through the Lens of Faith and Creative Writing

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...

May 22, 2018

     I am sitting where hatred and indoctrination rest against each other like two sleepy dogs lying on a sofa. Here, in this no-man’s-land, my hotel room, I can see the baited rivalry. I am safe for the moment, behind closed, locked doors. But outside my window, I see the scuffling shades of blue brush against one another – the ocean water trying to wash away the rim of the horizon. I am, of course, sitting where Chapel Hill and Durham nearly touch – this liminal place, placid and tranquil in all manner of appearance, is the armistice keeping bitter rivals at bay. 

     For those of you blessed to be ignorant of this invented friction, Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina. Durham is home to Duke University. These two universities are only miles apart and work well together: collaborate research, share recourses, they even blend degree programs. 

     But on the basketball court, they hate each other. They hate each other more th...

May 7, 2018

     The more I think about it, I’m really quite extraordinary. This may seem a radical departure from my regular Ash Wednesday demeanor – ashes, ashes, we all fall down. But today I’m a brilliant, good-looking, statuesque sample of humanity. I am up and dressed by 5AM – the greatest hour of the day. Coffee brewing. I dabble a little bit with Gregory of Nyssa – the vogue Cappadocian. The early birds outside my window scurry around my lawn riding it of unwanted worms or grubs or whatever else it is that birds breakfast on. But this isn’t why I am so exceptional.

     I’m not even singularly phenomenal because I’m in my youthful forties or because my kids have moved out or because I drive the greatest pick’em-up truck a man can own. I have a nice house, a stack of diplomas, and a wife who loves me beyond reason and comprehension. But even that’s not why I’m so freakishly magnificent. 

     Have you ever gone for a walk, turned down a gravel road you...

April 29, 2018

     The air was far too cold for an April morning. Any right-thinking person would have opened the door, felt the cold, turned around and crawled back in bed. But I am not a right-thinking person. There were photographs to make and a blog to write, both of which required me to step into the cold. 

     I fueled Beans (my truck) and filled a gas-station-coffee cup. Four .375 fluid ounces of French vanilla. I was ready: 

     Three layers of shirts. Two layers of pants and socks. A jacket. Coffee in hand. Cold or not, I was going to take pictures. Like collecting downed tree branches for a fire, my photographs have become the writing prompts for my blog – the sort of lectionary that guides my thoughts; what guides my photography is the trinity of chance, caprice, and, hopefully, a sort of providence nudging me towards discernment and surprise.   

     On Saturdays, at the riverfront in Wilmington, North Carolina, ju...

April 17, 2018

     Not another springtime meditation! God Almighty, who can bear another word about the smell of soil or the chatter of nesting birds. But when the leaves changed colors, I wrote about that. When the first snow of winter turned the world white, I wrote about that too. Being a photographer, I write about what I see, and now I see the lilies pushing out of the soil, the trees starting bloom, even the grass is changing from a disagreeable brown to a vibrant green. To add coercion to obligation, we’re in the Easter season to boot. So, it is out of Christian duty that I write about flowers and blooms – we’re prisoners to the seasons, liturgical and otherwise.

     But how do you write about springtime without getting all willy-nilly with romanticism? How does someone who takes medication every day to avoid chronic depression and generalized anxiety honestly write about flowerbeds and opened windows – curtains blowing in the breeze and the scent of coming rain? How do you kee...

March 31, 2018

     I’ve written about some pretty grimy stuff in my blog. Just take a look at the last post where I droned on about my general anxiety disorder. I try, I really do try to give my blog an upward swing by the end. And for the most part, that’s not that hard to do. Mostly, because that’s what I believe, but also, that’s the narrative arc of the Christian message. Or better still, I believe it because it is the Christian message. Everything starts out pretty good, perfect even, then things get screwed up or even ruined because someone has a personality disorder or because there’s a talking snake in the backyard, and then the bulk of your life is spent trying to balance out the horrible, helter-skelter rigmarole with fleeting moments of happiness and joy. The good news of the Christian message is that in the end, we’ll finish where we started, back in paradise with the innocence and naiveté of children. Paradise is the surrender of adulthood. Responsibility be gone.

     If you’r...

March 18, 2018

     I stood in the empty parking lot and listened. The wind blew through the trees, birds crowed, leaves rustled over the top of other leaves with a listless indifference. Ordinarily I would call this silence. I didn’t hear car doors pulled shut, I didn’t hear the idle of engines; I didn’t hear children playing or teenagers whooping or people talking. On a mountaintop in Polk County, Tennessee, I was alone in the way people think of being by themselves.

     But I have long ago abandoned this sort of thinking. I am never alone. Never by myself. I don’t even know what that means.

     Someone is playing the drums in my head. He is always there. At times the drumbeat feels like a nice rhythm, a steady badonk, badonk, badonk, or a tap, tap, tap, marching me through routine and steadiness. This is the drummer who lets me live between the beats, the space between noise. But of late, I’ve had a different drummer orchestrating my head. This ne’er-do-well...

March 2, 2018

     William Blight, who was called Big Willie by his twin sisters Mabel and Maude, approached the pastor and asked if the two could have a conversation, a serious conversation by his strained tone. Rev. Assakus, an affable, portly fellow who had eked out a pittance salary with two dimples and a beaten dog’s jittery vigilance, wasted no time ushering Mr. Blight to the pastor’s study to hear this new complaint.

     Complaints were nothing new for the minister; they, in fact, mounted against the minister like a pile of sand. When the complaints piled too high, they naturally slid away from the attention of the congregation, and a fresh batch was dumped on the minister’s shoulders. This was both a blessing and a curse. The fact that new complaints were forgotten so quickly meant that Rev. Assakus’ spirits were never completely broken. But the vacancy created by forgotten complaints amended the congregation’s creativity into taxing new complaints, then stamping different grievanc...

February 15, 2018

     The last day of January, I left the house at 5AM to go photograph the blue moon. I could’ve photographed the same blue moon before bed, but there was the ever so slight chance of catching the moon being partially eclipsed before the sun came up and ruined the view. To see the moon being fully eclipsed you’d need to be on the Pacific Coast, or in Asia, but, not being a person of discriminating alacrity, I thought I’d give it a try on the Atlantic Coast. After all, I might be on what is called the East Coast, but in reality, I live just minutes away from the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Word play had to count for something, I thought.

     It didn’t.

     I packed up my camera gear, loaded Beans (my truck), pat the doggies on their sleepy heads, and kissed my wife goodbye. I stopped at the Circle K and tanked up on coffee, passed the Farm Bureau sign, which said the temperature was 28 degrees, and then passed another flashing sign that said it was...

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