The Hungry Pelican 

Exploring Creation Through the Lens of Faith and Creative Writing

July 29, 2017

     The Killing River lulls you to pebbled banks, interrogates your beliefs, confronts you with God, and gives you a peace of surrendering as it seals your life below the surface.

     In the afternoon, the water of the Tennessee River reflects the habituated, beryl-blue sky. But as the sun sinks behind the mountains and unseats the sky’s inborn proclivities, cloud-touched rays assuage the water a gilded amber hue. And then, when the sun disappears to other lands, the pearly orbs lighting bridges and sidewalks, the distant red flares from cell towers, and incandescent lanterns of apartment buildings and late night office workers smear themselves across the surface of the river. There is an undeniable beauty on the banks of the Tennessee River and good reason to break out with contemporary hymn writer Al Green:

Take me to the river
And wash me down
Won't you cleanse my soul
Put my feet on the ground

     But like the poet who writes about charming little birds, o...

July 25, 2017

     Stuff that’s good for nothing is the hardest stuff to get rid of. An old shoebox filled with baseball cards, my first-grade progress report, and a photograph of a forgotten girlfriend and three of her friends whose names I’ve long ago forgotten. An address book with handwritten, phone numbers, a deck of cards missing two aces, seashells brought back from the Gulf of Mexico around my eighth birthday, and a rock my grandmother brought back from the West – I think it is copper, or I remember being told it’s copper. The stuff of closets, desk drawers, and attic boxes, the passing of time is measured out in stuff that’s good for nothing except soliciting the memory away from who we are now to who we were then.

     After decades, my parents are leaving their house for a new one. Now it is time to start deciding what will move with them and what will get left behind. The obvious stuff goes: furniture, kitchen stuff, pictures of me, laundry machines, and yard rocks (don’t a...

July 19, 2017

   

     I should’ve know something was wrong a couple of days ago when I started to clean my office. Being an addict means monitoring my behavior for outward and visible signs that something isn’t right in the inward and invisible part of me – that may sound like a sacrament, but trust me, it isn’t. Cleaning my office didn’t result in a cataclysmic spat of inebriation, at least, not this time, or, at least, not yet. But I stopped writing. I stopped thinking of things to write about, and the idea of doing photography fatigued my body as only an idea can.

     There is a direct correlation from the mess of my office to the productivity of my muse. The messier the better. The more disarrayed the more my mind is reassembling the thoughts of the writers sheltered on my floor. The wider and higher the stack of books and torn off scraps of papers and scattered Post-It-Notes reminding me of some random thought, the happier and more excited I am to be in my office. On a good...

July 15, 2017

   We’ve never seen the sun. Not really. It comes up every day, lights the world, shows us the ground we walk on, and casts our shadow. But you can’t see the sun. Not really. We can watch the sunrise over the ocean and see the jittery water flash a dazzlingly testimony to the sun. And later in the day, when sinking behind the trees, the silhouetted forest dispatches the sun from view. But not in the entire sun-filled-sky day did we actually see the sun. Not really.

     We see the sun’s shine. We catch the sun’s rays. We see by the sun’s light. Bursting off the surface of the sun, light photons travel to our home in about eight minutes and push away the invisible nothingness of darkness. But the sun itself is opaque in the sense that it isn’t transparent. Being opaque, though, doesn’t mean being invisible. Rather, quite the opposite. If something is opaque, it should mean that it can be easily seen. The wall, the car, the birds outside my window. But all these opaque things reflect...

July 11, 2017

     Ankle deep ocean water bubbles over with frothy, white suds – like diamonds massaging the meeting place of land and sea. A little further out and, if the wind is slightly blowing out of the northeast, the ocean water glints an emerald green. Just off the shoreline, the water finds that magical depth allowing it to radiate a sapphire-blue that spreads itself across two-thirds of the planet. And beyond and below that, when the continental shelf falls away and the ocean water sinks to the depths of leviathans and sea monsters and imagination, down, down, down in the deep, where all the light flitters away and ordinary perception panhandles with empty pockets, the ocean turns to onyx – the place where profundity is exceeded and nothing meaningful can be said; the depths educe mystery, perpetual vacancy, the dark dwelling place of God.

     “This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all...

July 6, 2017

     

     Why would you go to an art museum?

     Because you’re beau monde, sophisticated by cultural appetites – a refined intellectual with an index finger lacing moustache-like over the top of your lip; the rest of your hand cradling your lower jaw. You evaluate the elegance and cabalistic niceties, which pleasure only the nimblest of minds. You’re a connoisseur of Art Deco. A friend to antiformalist. A fancier of Cubism, though you’d never admit such an indulgence – a sort of voyeurism too closely akin to dilettantism. You’re erudite and polished; an epicurean of mise en abyme, a subject to bring up off-handedly in any meaningful conversation.

     Or, you just happened by the art museum and figured you don’t have much else to do.

     When Angela and I came in the door, we surprised the employee behind the counter. We paid our entrance fee, and Angela asked, “Can he take pictures?”

     “Sure,” she said. I pulled my cam...

July 4, 2017

     Flags will wave. Children will clap. People will sing. Bands will play. Parades will march. And red rockets will soar, splashing the sky with a palette of white hues and blue shades; fiery sparkles twinkling down from the heights, reflecting a cascade of colors off ponds and lakes. It is the Fourth of July – a time for folding chairs and cookouts, a bank holiday and car sales. Everything becomes patriotic: the cookies and cakes at grocery stores, church signs, red, white, and blue balloons, party favors, glitter, buntings draped over porches, saluting dogs, and sleeping Americanized cats. People who have never left the country will say things like, “We live in the greatest country,” and, “We live in the richest country,” and, “Freedom isn’t free.” These are the monikers, slogans, and proverbs of patriots. And flags will wave, and children will clap. People will sing, and hearts will swell with pride. It’s our blessed birthday. Launch the red rockets.

     Is this my Fourt...

July 1, 2017

  

     The Azalea Festival, the Shrimp Festival, Spot, Strawberry, Watermelon, Lantern, The Ocean City Jazz Festival, The North Carolina Muscadine Festival. But the list doesn’t end there. It keeps going and going, swerving and veering through small towns, county seats, larger cities, always celebrating something specific, particular, uniquely regional, and communally important. And, of course, The Blueberry Festival. That’s at the bottom of the list because of the old biblical adage, “The last shall be first,” which is to say: I saved the best for last. (Well, maybe Jesus didn’t exactly mean it that way, but if he went to the Blueberry Festival he would have.)

     When the sun finally came out, the rain had made it feel like 110 degrees. Clouds crouched in the sky like pouches of hot tub water. Dinky pockets and tributaries of goopy humidity steamed off the streets and courthouse lawn, off the foreheads of vendors and volunteers, off of parked cars and well-mulched...

June 24, 2017

     Maybe it’s just me, but I think a curious person who sees thousands of gourds neatly stacked along the side of the road on Walden’s Ridge near Pikeville, Tennessee is within their constitutional rights to stop and find out what’s up. I swerved Beans (Beans is the name of my truck) into an abandoned driveway, looked the other way down Road 30, and whipped Beans back to the gourds.

There were round gourds like cannonballs, gourds that looked like giant pears, other gourds were long and snaky. They all shined a blotchy black and golden hue with the newly fallen rain. It was evident that someone had worked tirelessly to neatly arrange them. But why? Who would do such a thing? What could come of ten thousand gourds? I could think of no use at all for them beyond birdhouses and decorations for Halloween.

    

     We’ve all seen the bumper stickers. “Work to Fish.” Or, “Work to Hunt.” Or, “Work to [add verb here].” The idea, of course, is that we do what we ha...

June 17, 2017

     In 1956 a terrible thing happened that most of us take for granted today. The Federal Aid Highway Act was passed and construction on our 47,856 miles of interstate began. Today nearly a quarter of all traffic occurs on the Interstate. (All this is true if Wikipedia can be trusted.) Now, instead of rumbling through one little insignificant town after another, instead of seeing the countryside and farmers, instead of the curls and bends of minor roads, we can just hop on the freeway and motor along, mindlessly carefree.

     Well, maybe the Interstate isn’t any more terrible than say telephones or microwaves or a photography blog. And I would guess that more than twenty-five percent of all the miles on my truck are from the Interstate – hypocrisy becomes me. But like the development of nearly all technologies, the construction of the Interstate brushed aside adventure for leisure. On a recent swing through North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, I pulled off...

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