Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Love

We walked along the wide open beach, our senses filled with the ocean’s boisterous offer of serenity. Waves thundered onto the shore, the shrill screams of gulls somehow melted into the landscape while cool sand wiggled its way through our toes and the ocean fog lay down upon us.

Beyond the salty strands of hair whipping across my face, a woman and a couple of children approached us from the opposite direction, before we could say hello, she told us there was a pelican in trouble down the beach.

“What’s the problem?”

“It's got a fish hook stuck in its beak and it’s all wrapped up in fishing line.”

We approached tentatively. Silhouetted against shades of gray, the great bird hobbled around in circles, her squat legs trussed like a Thanksgiving turkey. She was clearly anxious, but seemed to sense that an all out panic was partly what led to her debacle and another one would be no more helpful. We drew near and could see that the hook and line had torn a small hole in the fishing pouch and was now impaled into her impressive bill.

“I don’t know if you should, it is a wild animal after all.” I said as if he were confused as to the subject of our encounter.

I might have expected his response, “I can’t very well leave her to die.”

“Is your campsite near?” he asked the woman, “I'm going to need a pair of pliers or something to remove that hook.”

"I'll see what I can find," she said and sprinted into the veil of the marine layer.

The pelican is not often thought to be a beautiful bird; but I rather like its substantial size, the many curves and positions of its long neck, and the sight of a colony gliding in line formation just above the wave break is more graceful than a troupe of dancing ballerinas. Flying solo, it trolls the ocean for an evening meal and it is there that the beast of a bird reveals the epitome of poise and power. With prey in sight, it crooks its massive wings just so, stretches its mighty neck to the sea, and then plunges straight down from heights of thirty feet to scoop up unsuspecting fish in its generous pouch and then tosses them back like a cowboy swilling whiskey.

The woman returned and handed him a pair of needle nosed pliers. He moved closer, breathed deeply and with a grace and strength all his own, he calmed that great bird. He gently took the massive beak in his hand and drew her body close to him securing her beneath his arm. With the dexterity and precision of a surgeon, he removed the hook and then methodically unwound the string that would have otherwise been her demise.

I recall that pelican giving my husband a nod before toddling off; I now realize it has taken me years to appreciate what I experienced that day. Years for me to know fully, what that bird on the beach knew of my man in a moment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It Is The Veteran

It is the Veteran, not the minister,
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Veteran, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Veteran, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Veteran, not the campus agitator,
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Veteran, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Veteran, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Veteran who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Summer Lights

I lay stiff, clutching the pink flowered bedspread under my chin, I strained to hear past the whippoorwills’ first calls of the night. My belly ached in that specific longing way that feels like heartbreak. My bedroom windows were open; the heavy air carried the scent of grass clippings and sweet honeysuckle in its thickness.

Outside my window, friends taunted me with their yelping to and fro in preparation for the light show about to commence. Mason jars were gathered, nails driven into lids, and strategies laid out. When the sky turned deeply orange with only moments left of light, the mysterious beetles made their appearance and lit up the night.

From my bed, within the frame of my window, I saw the swarm sparkle past. A trail of flailing Mason jars came next, seemingly propelled only by laughter and an occasional bobbing head, breathless from the chase. I was motionless, not only did I wish to be in their midst, I was incredibly humiliated that I wasn’t. I surely didn’t want to be caught bathed and in bed while every other kid in the neighborhood gallivanted about.

Eventually, the crickets joined the whippoorwills' evening chorus, kids were summoned home and against my efforts, sleep came over me.

Amazingly, the day followed night; I survived the disappointment and humiliation and sat down to a new day where the Captn Crunch was just as sweet as it had ever been.

Monday, November 2, 2009