A wandering mind is a dangerous thing, especially when looking for a white creature in white snow.
The sun, on this beautiful day, is beyond bright – pupil-shrinking, exploding white. I’m wearing polarized sunglasses, that look like welding glasses, and all they do is make the scene beautiful.
I squint out the window of my truck for many hours but all I see are gentle waves of sparkling snow flowing out to an unobstructed horizon. It’s had to believe wildlife lives here – but for a fluke of geography and a few grid roads, this is Antarctica. The penguins are missing out on a great place!
I keep driving, convincing myself that one of these lumps of snow might magically turn into a snowy owl – a creature endowed with such a perfect white camouflage that it regularly deceives photographers. It forces me to keep looking at every snowy bump just in case. On this day the irregular snow shapes have no pulse. The allure is that I know they are out there … somewhere.
Inevitably the predictably white landscape steals my unwavering focus and my mind wanders.
“I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.” Steven Wright
Suddenly I’m in panic mode, jamming the brakes. Too hard and too late! My truck skids on some icy patches, alarming a snowy owl parked a few feet off the road. My heart sinks as I see those gorgeous wings open up to launch into flight. I watch helplessly, through a weather-beaten windshield, as my only opportunity for the day flies off into the distance. The worst part is it’s all my fault. I let those crazy penguins distract me again.
I keep driving and looking but can’t get my mind to focus or rest. In between lecturing myself for missing my chance, the snow seduces me into more wildlife-induced trances.
I remember that pelicans are mostly white – they could hide pretty well in the snow as long as they could stick those big noses under a wing. Brilliant! With only a little imagination they could be prairie penguins. I like it!
Besides, those large adorable creatures are long overdue for a name overhaul. The adjectives stuck in front of American white pelicans raise two obvious and serious objections:
- The white descriptor is rather superfluous in a place where that’s the only kind. Pelican, like hockey, needs no adjective. Real hockey fans here cringe at the oddity and redundancy of the term ‘ice hockey.’ Of course it’s on ice. If you want to mess with our game, it should be your responsibility to come up with a way to distinguish it!
- As for American, some might argue the term refers to the continent. I don’t. Canadians have few things in common other than that we generally agree we’re not Americans – living next door to an elephant will do that. Some Canadians carry that all the way to dislike though I’ve been fascinated with Americans on too many levels to get distracted with unfair generalizations. Back to my point, adding American to other nouns like food or culture quickly eliminates Canada – and that’s how it feels about the pelican. We need a less country-centric name for our pelicans.
So once those beautiful white birds join us on the prairies in summer, I think we should call them prairie penguins just to cut down on the confusion. Besides it’s mostly about the alliteration anyway! Hmm, I think I could make that into a blog post.
Now what was I looking for again? Focus Lyle!