We moved into our house a year ago this week. We unpacked for a few days before venturing outside to check out the walking trails. We were gobsmacked to come across a pair of pelicans on the river. We had never seen any in real life before.
A couple of people came by and casually looked over to see what we were so enthralled with and one of them calmly said in a rather bored fashion, “Oh, the pelicans are back” and kept on walking.
One pelican appeared to have something on his bill. We were alarmed, thinking he had got some sort of manmade garbage wrapped around his nose. When I got home a bit of research revealed the bump on the bill was a sort of natural hood ornament that the male pelican grows to attract mates. Once mating is over, the growth falls off. Nature is so incredibly fascinating. It never ceases to amaze me.
Today, while walking along the same path, I spotted some pelicans on a sandbar. They had returned right on schedule! What are the odds we would have moved in on the same week of their annual migration? Well, I guess it’s spring and all kinds of things are migrating right now, so perhaps not that odd after all. But still.
Today when I spotted the pelicans, there was something very reassuring about it. Moving to a new province and a large city after half a century of living in the same area, has been, well, a bit unsettling. You take so much for granted when you wake up to the same location year after year. There’s so much you instinctively know about the patterns of the place. Some solid sense of what to expect. You lose that when you move to a new place. You have to start over.
Knowing the pelicans always return around the second week in May has given me a touchstone of sorts. Something to make me feel I now know the place we live in well enough to casually say in all the Mays to come, “The pelicans are back.”
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to just keep walking past them as if it is nothing, though. I think I will always stop to stare in amazement and gratitude. Or at least I hope I will.