How Toddlers Are Like Pelicans


My kids are like pelicans. This realization struck me yesterday when I went with my sister to see the movie Pelican Dreams at the Regent Square Theater. I love birds, and pelicans hold a special place for me, having grown up watching them on the California coast.

I love everything about pelicans: The way they glide in threes over the water like cargo planes, the way they bob on the surf like ducks, the way they throw their impossibly long necks back to swallow a fish whole, and the way, gliding through the air, they suddenly twist and rocket down into a school of herring with a splash. Pelicans, with their long, prehistoric faces, clicking bills, waddling feet, and small, sensitive eyes are the exact shape they need to be. They are beautiful.

Of course, all birds are beautiful. That must be part of the appeal of bird-watching: seeing a soul so at home in a body, so unconscious in its pecking or hopping or singing that it makes us feel more alive just to see it.

In one part of the movie the filmmaker followed juvenile pelicans learning how to fly. A group of two-and-a-half month old pelicans heads to the top of hill. One climbs onto a low stump and starts vigorously flapping its wings as if it might take off straight up. Another just balances awkwardly on a rock. But then a third gets a clumsy, running start and jumps off the side of a hill, and suddenly it’s just floating out into the air, graceful.

I was reminded of my twins, now eighteen months. M no longer walks anywhere, she runs. She runs runs runs runs runs, and it is such a joy. Now she is trying to learn how to jump. She lifts one foot and then the other, she bends her knees and then straightens them, then reaches up to the sky as if it might pull her up. She is like that bird on the stump flapping its wings. She is learning what it is to be human, what this body of ours can do.

Watching the twins is like watching birds. E squatting down to look at some books on the bottom shelf, or working to fit a puzzle piece into a puzzle, or lifting a sippy cup to her mouth with her two chubby hands. This is what we are made to do. Our bodies are evolved for this. What a joy, a body, what a joy to be in the world, to be creatures here, like pelicans.

Last weekend we took a family trip to the National Aviary. M and E loved seeing all the birds. E stood for a long time at a window where you could see the penguins swim by underwater. Each time one flapped past it was like a small miracle, she was so thrilled. And now, when anyone talks about birds, M looks up in the air waving her arms as if pointing to them flying around up there. “Bee! Bee!” they say in high little voices, with wonder.



How Blogging is Like Birdwatching


When I first met D, one of the first activities we took up together was birdwatching. I remember so vividly the first time we took a bird walk in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The guide led us through parts of the park I’d been to many times before, but this time it was like we were exploring a brand new world.

We were walking slowly, stopping to watch for movement in brushes, listening intently. And as a result we were seeing things I’d never seen before. Red bellied woodpeckers with their brilliant red hoods and bold striped backs, hopping up the sides of trunks, handsome cardinals calling from every shrub, outrageously adorable titmice and nuthatches. It was the same city, but it was as if we’d stepped through the looking glass. I’d discovered a parallel universe.

Blogging, for me, has been a similar experience. For the past year I’ve been somewhat homebound. The first part of the year I was on bed rest at the end of a difficult twin pregnancy. After the twins were born, getting two infants out of my third-floor walk-up didn’t make leaving the house much easier. Needless to say there hasn’t been much birdwatching in my life lately (a gang of starlings landed on the windowsill this morning, and plenty of gulls drift overhead, which I do appreciate).

Then came blogging. I started this blog on a whim, at someone’s suggestion. I like drawing and writing. But it’s happened again. Suddenly here I am in a conversation with a writer and mother of twins in Tipperary, Ireland, and with a woman who does it all with twins, a toddler, and two dogs in Toronto. I thought about Christmas traditions with the most likable mom ever in Colorado, vicariously cleaned out my house with a photographer of pure, perfectly-titled photographs in Derbyshire.

And then there’s the man who loves painting oils of the old west, and a French woman raising a daughter in Brazil, the family living off the grid in Oregon, and even people here in New York City drawing beautiful pictures of animals, painting their claw foot tubs pink just a few miles away in their own universe/apartments. Every time someone “liked” a post it was a ticket into some new universe I never knew existed. The world keeps getting bigger. It’s a good feeling.