Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Pelican Encounter

To tell the truth, I very rarely visit the Oregon coast during the summer. First of all, the quaint little towns are all packed with annoying tourists—reminding me that our beautiful scenic Oregon does not belong solely to those of us who live here year round. Secondly, the weather is often iffy in the summer—it can be dank, cool and foggy on the beach when hot weather strikes the inland valleys. Or, if the sun does shine, the wind blows a gale out of the north, making beach-walking an unpleasant, dermabrasion sort of experience. So, oddly enough, though the weather was fine and sunny during our vacation, we didn’t really spend a lot of time on any actual beaches.

A few days into our visit, my sister had looked at me quizzically as we gazed out over the ocean and asked, “What’s happened to all the pelicans?” I hadn’t really thought about pelicans until that moment, but when I considered her question, I realized we had not seen any little parades of feeding pelicans dipping in and out of the waves just offshore. Normally, they are simply…out there—a comforting constant of the seascape. What indeed had happened to the pelicans?

I remembered hearing somewhere about a brown pelican die-off (which, it turns out, was in January of 2009. Yikes! I HAVE been out of touch…) So I wondered if we were not perhaps experiencing the consequences of that event. After my sister’s observation, I found myself searching the sky for them, and I saw no more than one or two lone birds diving in and spurting out of the spray. I had come to love and appreciate the nearly constant presence of undulating queues of the big brown birds, and I was saddened to think we might see no more of them.

On the last weekend of our trip—as it happened, on my husband’s first full day with us—we decided we were going to walk on a beach, come hell, high water or sand-laden gale-force wind. We parked at what turned out to be a small spit of sand at the mouth of a creek. The wind was insane—enough for the wind chill to subtract about 15 degrees from the non-beach air temperature of near 70°. Determined, we bundled and hoodied up and sallied forth.

As we literally blew across the parking strip and gained the sandy beach, my sister pointed to the sky to our left. Fighting their way through the vicious headwind came a stalwart string of pelicans. Not in their usual location, out just beyond where the waves begin to break on the shore, but close in, above the narrow strip of beach. Right over our heads. Nearly close enough to touch. The powerful wind impeded their progress to the point that they practically hovered, stuck to the sky above us. As if to say, “Um…you were looking for us?”

I cursed that I had left my camera in the car, almost turned back to get it, reconsidered…sighed and stood in the wind, rapt, as they floated slowly over us and up the beach. They were magnificent. I even remembered to thank The Almighty for that extraordinary treat. But after we left the beach, I thought no more about it.

Until a couple of days ago, when I recounted my experience with the crows. And I realized it might be wise to consider other special encounters I’d had after my solitary campfire ritual.

Oh, yes! I thought. The pelicans! Maybe I should consult my resources about what a visitation by Pelican might mean.

And here is what I found: “This is an opportunity to forgive either yourself or someone else and release any built-up guilt or resentment.”

Ah! Pelican had showed up on the first full day I’d spent with my husband since I’d left him behind more than a week before. And I’d say there has been plenty of that built-up guilt and resentment splattered all over our relationship of late. I have painstakingly sidestepped those emotions since arriving at the place where I could achieve the necessary amount of physical and emotional restoration to deal with them. I just haven’t been able to go there.

The thing about this encounter is, Pelican’s special connection was exactly what I needed, though I did not know it until weeks later. But the work of healing and forgiveness seems to have gone ahead anyway; husband and I have been getting along much better, and I’ve been able to release much of the bitterness that has kept me distant from him even though we’re no longer separated by the chasm of the cafĂ©.

So perhaps The Universe sends Animal Spirits not merely to guide, but as symbols of the work being done on our souls even when we are unaware. And as signals to those of us just discovering our connectedness to those spirits—to keep our eyes and minds open to any and every animal encounter.


  1. Could be! What an awesome experience to see the pelicans!

  2. Mom and I were at Washburn several years ago on one of the Winnie the Poo and the Blustery day sort of days. We parked the van where we could see the ocean and just settled in to listen. Started watching the gulls. They would fight their way up the beach against the wind. They were almost stationary the wind was blowing that hard. Then a few minutes later several blurs would flash by riding the wind. Then they'd do it again.

    I've never been lucky enough to see pelicans, I envy you and am thankful things are going better.