When I went to visit my beautiful sister and her family in Florida a few weeks ago, I had the strangest encounter. Ollie and I went out on the dock at sunset. He just turned three years old and we have some really great conversations these days. My favorite includes, "I love you. I really really love you." Occasionally he will say it back to me. When I'm lucky.
But on this particular sunset, our bare feet padded down the wooden dock and we laid out on our tummies, laughing and talking and looking at the water. We discussed my nail polish color (Essie Tart Deco), the book I was reading (The Alchemist) and our recent encounters at Disney World. Like I said, he is the perfect little guy.
Then we noticed a bird. Far, far out in the water, outlined by the magnificent sunset, was a fiercely beautiful pelican, lazily floating along the water.
"Look Ollie!" I pointed out. "Look at that big bird!"
"Pelican," he answered. He is just the smartest.
"Yes! You are so right, it is a pelican. Look, he's looking at us! Maybe he will swim closer to us."
Freakishly enough, the bird did start swimming towards us. At a kind of rapid pace. For the 90 seconds of its swim time, Ollie and I are pointing and wowing over the bird.
"Ollie, he must like us! Look at how fast he's swimming towards us! THIS IS SO COOL!" Ollie laughed and clapped with me. We were both such innocent younglings. We didn't know.
The bird swam right up to the dock. And what happened next... well, maybe I'll just show you.
Are you getting a bad feeling yet? For some reason, that bird looks semi-diabolical, right? Once it got up close, I had a very bad feeling. And then it moved closer. Remember, my sweet little nephew and I were laying ON OUR STOMACHS on the dock. So vulnerable to the terrors of Mother Nature. We fell silent. The bird was within 2 feet of us.
Suddenly I realized I should stop taking pictures with my iPhone. Something was just wrong. Then the bird did a very bad thing. It aggressively jutted its beak out toward us and fanned its wings out. It was a shocking interaction to have with an animal, but it was certainly a VERY clear sign that it didn't like us. This sudden movement of aggression scared the crap out of me. I grabbed the baby and leaped back up the dock, hollering, "STTTEEEEVVVVIIEEEEEE!!!!!"
Ollie was confused. I was confused. I shouted, "Bad bird! BAD BIRD!!!" The pelican just looked at me, unshaken by my cowering fear. He trailed alongside the dock, his eyes on me while he hovered in the water. Creep.
Stevie and my bro-in-law Brad appeared on the scene and I quickly (and loudly) explained the bird's bad behavior. Brad (a Florida native) just looked at the bird and said, "Get. Get!" Instead of getting, the pelican did the same thing to him! Jutted out his ugly, vile beak and extended his wings upward towards Brad. This bird messed with the WRONG PEOPLE. And by that I mean I totally acted like a panicked girl and screamed for man-help, and I gratefully received it. Dumb bird. I have MAN HELP. Top that.
"Whoa. I've never seen a bird do that here. Or anywhere, " said Brad. He and Stevie immediately went and grabbed a few small rocks. PETA don't freak out. This was a seriously deranged bird. They began tossing rocks in the water to spook him, and after several tries, the bird finally flew away. Ick, keyword: FINALLY.
I've been shaken up about this experience for weeks. Apparently aggressive pelicans exist. Usually because people feed them. We didn't have any food on the dock, but Brad said the bird might have been territorial. Geez.
Yesterday I Skyped with Ollie and he reminded me of the "big bad bird." I told him that he was such a big boy when that happened. And that I loved him. And he responded immediately, "I love you!" Pure joy to my heart. Almost made the harrowing, ominous "big bad bird" episode worth it. Almost.
Sometimes nature can be a real mother, you know what I mean?