Sunday, January 11, 2009
You better be completely prepared and you better shoot fast when aiming to capture a few pixels worth of most wildlife. Even these pelicans, who are accustomed to seeing human beings from their wet perch on urban Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, are already high-tailing it after a measly three shots from my invasive Nikon shutter.
Putting myself in the pelican’s place, and observing my equipment-laden hulk sneaking around the nearby shore, I would probably consider me a natural enemy.
Back to being me. Mr. Pelican, you pea-brained ninny, I am your friend. I want to see you survive and prosper. I want your offspring to prosper. I like watching you. And you have the brash, unmitigated temerity to show me your pelican butt as you put watery distance between me and you. You ingrate! I am outraged that you consider me a natural enemy. What have you been smoking? Have you spent too much time in the sun?
My righteous indignation gave me pause to think. Because the pelicans are genetically programmed to survive — I’m thinking like the pelican again — they cannot see the upside to associating with a human being. In fact, they apparently believe their chances of survival are enhanced by showing me their backsides. Because of this pelican mindset, they have survived to this very day, allowing them to present themselves, reluctantly I’m sure, for the pelican portrait above.
The very behavior I despise presented me with the opportunity for the shot. Football coach Lou Holtz probably said it best: “Nothing is ever completely bad and nothing is ever completely good” — or words to that effect. Mind you, the old coach was referring to sports, but his old saw lends itself to pelican conditions, too.
Before I left the lake, I had the opportunity to see some pelican-like shortcomings in myself. I was alone on a basketball court at the lake’s edge for the shooting. Then, hark! I see another car driving up. Mind you, the marine characteristics of this area are just fine, but the surrounding neighborhood is not a popular destination after dark if you don’t happen to live there. Given that, when I saw the approaching vehicle, I wished my pistol was in my pocket. With baited breath and a vested interest in survival, I watched the car doors open. I saw a mother and her teen-age daughter emerge with a camera. They were stopping beside the lake for the same reason that had brought me there.
Turns out, they had just delivered a son and brother to a local university and now were on their way back to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The sight of the pelicans, they told me, was too alluring to resist. I know I was blushing with internal guilt as we exchanged pleasantries. Not so for the %$#@!! pelicans.
In all fairness, not all pelicans are as persnickety as the charlatans above. This one was downright cooperative.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.