On the far side of the lake, in the corner furthest from the stairs where our walks begin, where the trail splits, one path always seeming to turn toward the sun while the other angles away, where the sound of the traffic and the businesses and the quiet residences cease and the wind can turn the leaves of the Russian Olive grove into sharp fingers that point and whip––and, if you didn't know better, accuse––Duncan and I settled down on the dark shore, just before the unsteady line where sand turns to mud, and watched a lone pelican glide in from the north, spread its vast wings and slip gracefully into the water. The poet in me wondered what else could that pelican be, its shape out there on the rolling blue, its body fat and tall, enormous beside the geese and miniature bodies of the ducks which curse and scurry out of its way; the serene curve of its neck with the long orange beak protruding from the pale globe of its head. What is it out there; what is it like?
While we watched, the milkweed pappas drifted past carrying their toothpick seeds and––more importantly––hundreds of wishes waiting to be dreamed up and cast back onto the currents of air. Duncan watched a trio of honeybees skim the purple-flowered clover, pausing momentarily on each to catch the pollen on spindly legs hardly wider than thread. The wind culled the surface of the lake, taunted it until it reached up to curl foamy, empty fists around it. The gnats and mosquitoes, golden motes in the congenial glow of early evening, hovered just above the grappling surface as fish after fish breached and snapped at them, their backs a prism, their bellies aloof and blanched. I turned at their sudden surgings but saw only an echo of their presence, a rupture and surge of water and mist and expanding undulations across the choppy surface. From somewhere came the memory of a voice telling me, perhaps when I was very young and the voice was already very old, that if the lake was kind enough to show you that fish, if your eyes were quick enough to dance across the rainbow of its scales before it slipped back into the depths, you would be granted one wish.
A long time we sat there, until the sun had bowed behind the curtain of the mountains and the air had cooled and the shade had drifted over us, wiping the sweat and glow from my skin. The wind hushed itself and the water smoothed. A moment later its surface was broken by the flash of a bone belly rising up, a body twisting in the air, translucent fins fluttering with the hopes of flight, a gaping pink mouth and a glisten of droplets escaping from the thrashing of dancing tail. The fish hovered a moment then drifted onto its side, lunging forward as the lake reclaimed it and left only widening ripples in its place.
Duncan, surprised by the rupture in our silence, looked toward the sound then turned to me, his ears raised, head cocked.
If he had asked I would have told him.
I wish to know what else a pelican can be.