This morning, while Dan was writing, I decided to hang out at the Tropical Crane Point Hammock, a botanical preserve not far from our digs here in Marathon. After walking the grounds, I sat down with a bag lunch at the point, soaking in the sun, mesmerized by the play of light off the rippling gulf and the swirling designs in the coral turned rock I was resting on. All of a sudden, there was a bit of commotion off to my left, and to the sound of cheers and applause, a small flock of brown pelicans and cormorants swooped down in front of me.

Right! I remembered. The wild bird center was going to be releasing some now healthy birds this afternoon. Our guide had mentioned this when we stopped by earlier in the morning. I looked at the pelicans with interest. There were many reasons they had entered the sanctuary: torn pouches, emaciated bodies, swallowed fish hooks. But the one thing they had in common this morning was that they were being set free.

One of the cormorants got the idea fairly soon. He flapped his wings, and then taking a long arc, disappeared behind a nearby rookery. But the pelicans seemed a bit slow on the uptake. I heard one of the vets say, "they're so happy," but it looked doubtful. They looked a little stunned, actually. There was a bit of flapping wings, but not much other movement. Technically they were free, but practically a bit stymied. 

Just then, a white pelican (in "party dress" according to later conversation) flew by. Whether it was the festive plumage, or just the shock of seeing one of their own kind airborne, the pelicans gathered courage. The wings started flapping more vigorously, and soon one after another pelican was cleaving the afternoon breeze.

I'd like to be a party pelican. To move beyond knowledge of how to fly, to being comfortable in the air. Finding the updrafts, riding the currents, able to pull up out of a dive. To live out what freedom looks like. And encourage others to come along for the ride.

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