These days I feel like cousin to a pelican – ponderous creatures relying on thermals to gather them along as they soar above the sandy shores of the California coastline where I grew up. Rarely alone and most often in small groups, pelicans possess a sharpshooter’s eye. As these stork-like birds target a meal below, they hang suspended for a few seconds considering position, then free-fall head first into the depths. Moments later up they pop, contentedly bobbing on the surface where they repeatedly stab the sky with long necks, settling catch into storage.
Each time I spot a pelican in flight I am drawn back to the past, cruising along in our little ChrisCraft on the great grey Pacific waters, watching these majestic birds glide and dive through the receding fog. My dad would then recite anew his version of the 1910 limerick penned by Dixon Lanier Merritt:
A peculiar bird is a pelican;
It can hold more in its beak than its belly can –
It can hold in its beak enough food for a week;
But I’m darned if I see how the helican.
This is a time of gathering, of measuring the value of the catch and then digesting what is taken in. It is clearly not a time to dole out more than a day’s worth of energy at a stretch. Mindfulness in the moment seems the wisest course. Life marches on and I bear stark witness to it, swept along on the shifting tides that converge and divide, over and over, each time leaving behind a trail of detritus we must live with or remove from a cluttered shoreline.