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  1. Life & Culture

On St. Pete Beach, the beauty of flight at sunset

Pelicans hold special meaning for this family.
Roy Peter Clark's daughter Alison captured this image of a pelican in flight at St. Pete Beach.
Roy Peter Clark's daughter Alison captured this image of a pelican in flight at St. Pete Beach. [ ALISON CLARK | Alison Clark ]
Published Apr. 20

It is called pareidolia, the way we look in the sky and see a cloud shaped like a camel. Last year I wrote about a beautiful pink cloud on the horizon that looked like an angel.

It’s happened again. Daughter Alison, visiting from Atlanta, headed for St. Pete Beach to enjoy a sunset. “If you see one, Ali, please take a photo for me of a pelican in flight.”

The Clarks have become a family devoted to pelicans. Early in 2020 we appeared before the St. Petersburg City Council proposing that the brown pelican — a familiar symbol — become the official bird of the city. I even recited this classic couplet: “A wonderful bird is the pelican / Its bill will hold more than its belican.”

Since then, the Clark house has become something of a museum of pelican imagery and art.

Using her iPhone, Alison delivered a golden image of sky, sun, sea and a brown pelican soaring west. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted a framed version.

Then this: “Look at the shape of the sun,” said Ali’s mom. “It looks like a pelican.”

I could not believe my eyes. There it was, an apparition caused by the sun and its reflection off the clouds. A blazing pelican. A bird, like a phoenix, on fire.

I believe in the power of magical thinking. The natural world sends us messages just when we need them. The rain falls. The birds sing. The flowers bloom. We receive these gifts with our senses. In our souls, we find beauty and look for meaning.

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