We were standing on the shore of Clinton Lake, at Woodridge Peninsula, having kayaked over from the State Park boat ramp late that afternoon. Steve, Jonathan, and myself had decided to kayak over and camp out that night. We had just finished setting up camp, explored a bit, spent time in our boats, and eventually assembled on the shore. The sun had just set and the gloaming was in full force; a panoply of pink, to orange, to green to blue played from the horizon to the darkening sky overhead. A lone tree, long since dead from the filling of the lake, stood about ten feet off shore. It was perfectly still; no wind, no sound, the black tree stoically silhouetted against the sky.

The three of us were simply mesmerized by the scene.

Jonathan then noticed something in the air, flying toward us out of the horizon, and asked,

“Is that a Pelican?”

We peered into the dusk and it seemed rather surreal — something dynamic, magically emerging from a static work of art.

It was, in fact, a Pelican; crooked neck, trailing legs, wide black-tipped wings, stately and elegant in flight, yet something almost prehistoric at the same time

Then we noticed more following behind — a whole stream of Pelicans, maybe thirty all told, heading right toward us. Passing right by the tree they flew by in formation, no more that twenty feet from where we stood on the shore.

To our credit, no one said anything — no one dared. The only sound was the beating of the wings against the air, which to this day I remember vividly; the otherworldly sound of natural flight on a silent night at sunset. They headed around the peninsula, perhaps overnighting in the Deer Creek drainage a bit to the northwest, then passed out of sight.

When describing this to others, and the magical effect of this simple, natural occurrence, I am often met with something to the effect of,

“Wow, you guys were really lucky.”


Yet, I can’t help but notice that I am often most lucky standing silently on the shore of a lake, at dusk, with good friends, and taking some time out of my life —  to pause, to notice, to not feel compelled to speak.

Lucky indeed.

Patience, place, and presence must surely play a part as well. And, just perhaps, we may also learn something of the benefit of persistence, from the stationary, lone tree imprinted against that perfect sky.

Dan Kuhlman

jenna goodman