The Hungry Pelican 

Exploring Creation Through the Lens of Faith and Creative Writing

October 21, 2017

     The dead children were especially cute. But it wasn’t just the children; all the dead people walking up and down the streets of downtown Wilmington were captivating in their own way. Or maybe they weren’t dead as much as they were undead, whatever that means. But whether they were dead or undead, they walked with their arms stretched straight and legs locked. Rigor mortis had grinded their joints into a harden, fixed position. Eyes had flattened and looked ghostly vacant. Even though flesh eating bacteria scavenged their faces for scrumptious morsels, and dried blood had splashed on the corner of mouths and cheeks and throats, even though they shared a pasty, pale jaundice, and their garments suffered dry rot, no one could deny the beauty and joy the dead people shared.

     Not that dead people speak English, or speak at all, they seem to grunt and snarl more than talk – like cable news – but I was led to believe by more than a few of these undead-dead people that they w...

October 15, 2017

     

     It should’ve been February. The clouds canopied the North Carolina Museum of Art, jailing me in an internal promise land. I could easily see snow clumping in uneven patches on the campus grass and feel a cold breeze pushing further and further south. Minuscule icicles leached off of tree branches and crystalized long-leafed grasses. The soft razz of heavy snowflakes or misty, frozen rain listed off earth’s surface like a wire brush running over a drumhead.

     Except it wasn’t snowing. It wasn’t even cold. I was wearing shorts, wishing away the humidity. The museum’s campus flavored a sort of disembodied Kubrick montage, a mind’s cosmos spiraling inward, forever inward, smaller and smaller, like a photon stealing passed the iridescent throat of a singularity. The long, nondescript white building, transitioning near flawlessly from concrete and metal to white, ethereal sky; the gravel track unnecessarily curling to a stainless-steel tree. The wind machines,...

October 6, 2017

     

     I woke up in the Croatan National Forest just outside of New Bern wondering where I was. Loblolly pines stood like sentinels at the corners of my tent. The air wasn’t exactly cold and the sun wasn’t exactly up. Early morning fog drifted in thick patches out of the duck impoundment, flooded ditches, and Catfish Lake. The night before came rushing back on me. I had been in my tent since seven o’clock. Normally I sit by the campfire, poking it with a stick for hours and hours without the slightest hint of boredom. The night before, though, the mosquitos had chewed on my arms and neck as if I were a grilled taco. So, I had stayed in my tent. Because the weather forecast had said there was only a five to ten percent chance of rain, I had left my rainfly off. But then, of course, it had started raining at one o’clock in the morning.

     Normally I feel a deep sense of belonging back in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. A sense of belonging that can only be ex...

September 28, 2017

     

     The truck slowly lurched out of the pine forest like a big game cat stalking prey. The headlights streamed through the forest, straight up the trail, deliberately blinding us. A little patch of fog wafted in front of the headlights. The more we looked at the truck the more it seemed to hesitate, its engine rattling and sputtering, just ever so quietly being revved up and down. The driver turned on high beams and a second set of light. We held our hands up to our foreheads and squinted our eyes. We were miles off the paved road in the middle of a game land, several hours after the sun had set. Eastern screech-owls trilled in the branches of darkened trees. Coyotes howled to each other like a chorus a ner’er-do-wells. But the truck, with its headlights shining in our face, eerily stopped, blinding us, ruuuurrump, ruuurrump – no one should be back here.

     I had picked up John several hours earlier in Beans. (Beans is the name of my truck.) The game land in...

September 16, 2017

depth of field /depq əv fi:ld/ n. 1 the zone of acceptable sharpness within a photo that will appear in focus.

     I am socially awkward, clumsy with people and manners. I am often too blunt or share too much, and I entertain very few personal-editorial skills. I do not easily stomach mawkish piety, the caddishly unintellectual, the parochial and pageantry, or the obdurately political. I accumulate fancy, Latinized phrases such as ex nihilo nihil fit and credo ut intelligam and post hoc, ergo propter hoc because I like sounding snooty and uppish, but I am freakishly naive. I love irony but seldom catch sarcasm. Consequently, I spend a great deal of time alone.

     I joined a photography Meet Up group to help with this social isolation. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised even having no expectations. The group was friendly, cordial, curious about each other, dealt with conflict appropriately, ethnically diverse, and more interested in doing things rather tha...

September 9, 2017

     There was an earthquake Thursday night. A pretty bad one from what I can gather. It occurred somewhere off the west coast of Mexico, just as Mexico’s east coast was stuck by Hurricane Katia. Much of Texas is still destroyed. Thousands, I gather, are homeless. Every now and then I will hear something or see something about the fires out West. Everything west of Denver might be on fire, I’m not sure. How many homes will simply be missing when the flames are extinguished? Hurricane Irma is about to scrub overtop of Florida like a scouring pad. When it is done will anything be left?

     With all of this going on I want to offer a simple reminder. The natural world, the planet, the earth, the God created world we live on is a good place. The rock beneath our feet, the meadows and butterflies, the ponds, rivers, and lakes, just the right amount of air pressure and gravity. Our world isn’t too hot (yet) and it isn’t too cold. In our world, we have polar deserts and rainforests,...

September 2, 2017

     I want to be a wild bird, a bird on the hunt, on the lookout. I want to build a nest in a tree over a swampy marsh, scout out prey, watch for danger and changes in the weather. I want to swoop down, snag a fish with talons, and retreat to my perch; or hop along the forest floor, pick at worms and insects, grab a twig with my beak, and continue building my treehouse. I want to look down on the world, see how beautiful it is; and then, maybe, land on a pier or boardwalk and let people walk up close and get a good look at me; and then I want to peck them on the forehead and honk a mean-spirited laugh before flying off. Why would I want to do that? Because wild birds are unstable birds, a little bit chancy, and in touch with their God-created, boisterous nature.

     Birds seemed to me a higher ordered creature than we humans. Some can swim underwater. Others can paddle around a pond or lake or even the ocean. They can walk on land, climb trees, and live underground...

August 26, 2017

     

     In 1979, ABC News journalist Frank Reynolds covered the last eclipse over the United States on live television. When it was over he said, “So that’s it, the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century.” He went on to say, “Not until August 21, 2017 will another eclipse be visible from North America. That’s 38 years from now.”

     Now that eclipse is over too.

     From where I live, the moon was going to eclipse 96% of the sun. And while that four percent may not sound like a lot, Annie Dillard in her essay, “Total Eclipse,” compared a partial eclipse to a total eclipse by saying it’s the difference between flying in an airplane and falling out of one. So, I left early Monday morning for South Carolina to know what it felt like to fall out of the sky.

     I wanted to be early. I wanted to miss the traffic. I wanted to find a special place inside the Brookgreen Gardens where I could photograph, watch, and be...

August 13, 2017

The long stretch of road climbs

                                        banks and hills and mountains and peaks

and drops down

            down

       down

valleys and bends.

     This road coils around suburban edges,

wanders pass long-stretched, flat countryside, dirt-worked farms and fenced-family plots, spying horizon–

     sites distant cloudscapes and weather.

     Milestones count the stages:

prostrate,

        crawling,

                walking,

                      running,

                      running,

                walking,

           siting,

prostrate.

     But the road n...

August 5, 2017

     Matches, cigarette lighters, a magnifying glass, and a flint striker – these were the secret arsenal of my childhood. When my parents weren’t looking, I’d casually slip my mom’s hairspray out of the house or my dad’s WD40 out of the garage, strike a match, and revel in the flamethrower like device I’d created. I’d burn trash, sticks, leaves, anything I could get my hands on; with the magnifying glass, ants and other creeping things smolder and curled up as their legs and antennae twitched until a near invisible poof of smoke came from the cremated remains.

     I loved fire. I loved the way a big fire could start from a single match; the way it fed and moved from a leaf to a stick to something even bigger, like a log. I loved how a fire could take a perfectly white sheet of paper, like a spelling test or math quiz, and turn it into gun barrel gray ash. And if I stowed away enough matches from all ashtrays in the hotel and motel rooms we stayed at on family vacation, I cou...

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