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Amanda Montoya Pelicano Takes Flight

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It was dusk and the fading twilight glistened purple and orange across the gentle ripples of Biscayne Bay. A mile from land a fishing boat dumped a bag of chum in the water and a crowd of hungry pelicans began to fight each other for food. It was the end of another day, a long day at that--and every desperate pelican scavenged the sea for paltry scraps. Yet way off alone, sitting on a buoy, Amanda Montoya Pelicano prepared to take flight. She opened her pouched bill, as if yawning at the display, and turned towards the fading sun.

"What boobies," she thought.

Slowly, Amanda stretched her expansive wings, narrowed her brown button eyes, held her breath, and with great expectation leapt from her perch on the buoy. It was not eating that mattered to this bird, it was not art or culture or sex or gossip, but only flight.

Amanda Montoya Pelicano loved to fly.

This kind of thinking, she learned, was not the way to make herself popular with other birds. Even her parents were dismayed that their pelican was not like the other birds, with no appetite or concern for the flock. It was only the art of flight that concerned Amanda. The craft of never faltering or stalling, of handling hard curves and wind currents, of experimenting with low-level glides, and most important swooping and diving, for no one in the flock could swoop and dive so beautifully. Her dives ended not with the usual beak down splash into the sea, but with a long flat wake as she glided the surface with her webbed toes, walking on top of the water as if it were asphalt. For Amanda was the only bird in the sea who walked on the water.

Her complete disinterest in being a scavenger like the rest of the birds confused her parents. "Why, Amanda, why?" they asked. "Why is it so hard to be like the flock?"

"I just want to know what I can do in the air, that's all. I just want to know."

Amanda tried to be like the other birds but it was pointless. The more she tried, the more she wanted to take flight. How could she keep her mind set on a specific task, like eating, when the whole world was waiting to be explored? With a wingspan of ten feet, and a sky with no limit, the desire to take flight was just too powerful for the young bird.

So, rather than be like the rest of the pelicans, Amanda spent her time alone, three thousand feet in the air, soaring, gliding and flying high in the sky. She would rise high until the atmospheric pressure literally compressed her plumage. And then she would drop, like an anchor, down towards the sea, with the velocity of a bullet, diving like no one before her, only to pull up at the last second, to simply walk on the water. Time after time it happened. Rather than prey for food like the rest of the flock, she walked on the water, with grace and precision, like a seamstress sews a dress, or a painter makes love to a canvas. And this bird never got wet. Has there ever been a pelican who never got wet?

I am done with the way I was, she thought. I am done with getting wet.

Amanda Montoya Pelicano concentrated only on flying. She did not concentrate on Art Basel. Nor the Knight Foundation! Not Riptide or Short Order. Just flying. The more she flew, the greater she soared. And often with a pointed finger the city of Miami would look up to her. "Look at the pelican," they said. "Come on, pelican. Fly, pelican, fly!"

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