Pelican Dreams and the Importance of Nature

Judy Irving’s new film, Pelican Dreams, is available now as a DVD, a streaming video, and a download. It’s in all the usual places—Amazon, iTunes, and, as far as we know, Netflix, although I think only as a DVD. (Other people are in charge of distribution and neither one of us has enough business sense to remember all the details.) Judy’s nonprofit company, Pelican Media, has an online store that sells the DVD, and this is, of course, how she would prefer that people view it. The store is at To go to the store, you can click here. I can’t pretend to be an unbiased observer, but it is a very good film. Surprisingly good. Moving, humorous, intelligent. There is one moment that never fails to choke me up. I’ve seen it 30 times or so, and it gets me every time.

DVD cover for Pelican Dreams

DVD cover for Pelican Dreams

Circumstances have made me less of a hermit lately (you have to be a hermit to write a book) and I’ve been having more frequent encounters with strangers than I usually do. The usual questions come up—where do you live? what do you do? have any kids? what does your wife do? and so on. When I tell people my wife is a filmmaker they usually perk up. “Oh, yeah? What kind of films?” “Documentaries.” “What about?” “Nature mostly.” And then I often see the interest fade. A lot of people see nature as an inferior subject, not worthy of the attention of a serious artist. Nature is nice and all, but all critters do is eat, sleep, and breed. They’re not as fascinating as we human beings. This is the ignorance of an almost entirely urbanized population that is obsessed with money, technology, and celebrity, and fascinated by its own neuroses and addictions. But all life, all the plants and the animals, have a deeper reality than the one we habitually see. There is a poetry to everything that lives, and just as love is not nonsense simply because some people make bad movies or write bad songs about it, neither is nature shallow and boring just because people make shallow and boring films about it. (It’s so pitiful to feel any need to say this!) The beautiful thing about Pelican Dreams is that it captures some of the poetry of the pelican’s existence. And that existence is absorbing in a way that the neuroses of human beings are not.


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2 Responses to “Pelican Dreams and the Importance of Nature”

  1. Tim Mueller Says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you! When the madness subsides, and people wake up, they will rub their tired eyes and see you smiling at them through the pages of your books and the poetry of your blog!

  2. Lynn Duvall Says:

    After working with Alabama Wildlife Rescue for 8 years — 4 directly with birds, the other 4 mostly answering the hotline (people telling me baby birds were abandoned when they were only fledging, a woman in a wealthy neighborhood calling to complain that there was a vulture at the back of her enormous wooded lot eating a dead dog — and so many more) almost nothing surprises me anymore vis a vis people’s ignorance about nature. I definitely, most definitely get angry that people think nature is encroaching on our territory, that they don’t have needs or feelings.

    On the day after April Fool’s Day, someone posted a photo on Facebook of a young coyote in a crate with this text: “I found this dog when I was running on Tiger Mountain this morning. Very skittish but I finally lured him (always him, you know) with dog treats into the back of my truck. Whoever owns this dog needs to come get him. We thought we might be able to foster him for a while but he’s very aggressive toward our two small dogs and we’re worried for their safety.”

    I let myself get upset and posted that the animal in question was a wild animal, a coyote not a dog and needed to be returned to the place it was found and released asap. Then I posted that if anyone doubted that they should call Wildlife Rescue. Kept not getting any responses. So, finally I posted “I wish it was harder to believe people were this stupid about animals.” Finally, a response:

    “Calm down. This is supposed to be a joke.” (!!!)

    So, many, many thanks and hugs to Judy and you and all the other people who care about animals and care enough to find out more about them. They’re an endless source of fascination and education. Animals have lives a lot like ours, before the Industrial Revolution.

    “Without the animals mankind would die of a great loneliness.” — variously attributed.

    Off to buy the CD …

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