Sea Feathers and Leaves

Many specific, powerful moments have I captured at the beach, with and without a lens, that live in me so vividly, there to be called upon on a whim whenever I need them. Two of these are my images “Pigeon on the Pier” and “Sunflowers in the Sand,” their lessons, how they resonated with me, similar.

I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and started my own family there. In city parks, pigeons are popular, as well as those sitting on benches feeding them. City pigeons are what I had always known. They were standard and expected in my world. They had their place. They were common, not viewed as anything spectacular or especially beautiful by others.

Many years later, on a visit to the Gulf shores of Florida, I came upon the same type of pigeon on an ocean pier.

Pigeon on the Pier

It stunned me with unexpectedness. A pigeon at the beach? I never heard of or imagined such a thing. There was only one, hanging out with the traditional seabirds, sitting on the pier railing. Its colors, illuminated by the unobstructed sun, against the backdrop of the sea’s blues and greens and white-capped waves and the aquahorizon blending into the endless blue sky, were truly spectacular, the most beautiful and striking bird on the pier.

So deliberately and boldly out of place, shattering preconceived notions, limitations, stereotypes. This pigeon was free, beyond cage, beyond park, beyond fear. It was deeply inspirational, motivational. A “city” pigeon with feathers caressed by the salty sea breeze. Of course, in my mind, I spun a whole story about it, how it defied and transcended expectations, went its own way, flew the coop, against the flock, followed dreams deemed foolish and unattainable, highly discouraged by other feathered friends and family. This pigeon heard of another place over the rainbow or simply believed in one with no such evidence, a place where it knew it had to reach, a place where it knew it belonged.

I wondered if it now called this place home, or if it had more unknowns to explore. Years later, that pigeon on the pier would very personally resonate with me even more…

Another sight that mesmerized me was a patch of sunflowers growing out of the sand along a short boardwalk that led to the sea.

Sunflowers in the Sand

Another out-of-place image that struck me, shook my preconceived notions of what is expected to be and not to be. Flowers can grow without soil? Have I lived such a sheltered and naïve life that I didn’t know that was possible? Sure, the sea oats grew tall and majestic from the sand, but such a well-known flower so far away from gardens and fields? Its deep green leaves and signature golden-burst blossoms were such a stark contrast, like the pigeon’s colors, against the muted hues of the seashore. It too seemed to be making a bold statement, had a story.

The sunflowers in the sand reminded me of young childhood thinking in the time of innocence and uninhibited creative thinking before all of the influences that seem to dissolve such wonderful early notions of coloring suns green and the grass purple, of coloring outside of the lines, all before we were told… Told what? What were the words spoken, yelled, whispered that changed and molded a notion, a belief, a mind, a child, a nation? What was the guidance? What word-seeds planted, and what did they grow? What fertilizer in lieu of seeds, and what did it kill?

For a while, for a period of my adulthood, I responsibly packed up the unrealized dreams, the unfulfilled fantasies. Once a creative colorer, a young artist, an older painter of grandiose possibilities, I laid down the crayons and paints, crumbled up more and more of my drawings, on paper and canvas and medialess in my mind, my aging heart. Some paths I chose seemed permanently outlined, with me trapped on the inside of those lines, now without my coloring tools. Trapped in the book, a pigeon in a cage, a sunflower seed eaten, not planted.

Eventually, though, something inside me made me finally reach. For the latch, for that crayon. I am now the pigeon on the pier, the sunflower in the sand.

All words and images on this site ©LauraDenise

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