Of Seasons and Birds

I’m sure I’ve already written about the subtle hints of seasonal changes in this part of the world.

We have sunshine and warm weather year round. And yet, certain gentle markers – blooming trees, sargassum on the beaches, the arrival of butterflies, and the comings and goings of certain birds – mark these biannual changes.

Images of birds are found embellishing a number of buildings in the Art Deco area of the city. For some reason they have caught my eye.

Air vents on the older houses allow air to enter the attic space and prevent the pervasive mold. They are frequently artistically embellished. Here are two where the birds took flights of fancy.

This one is a lovely pigeon

Someone in my neighborhood chose pigeons to decorate their great mail box. There are two in the picture.

The facade of this Henry Hohauser-designed Art Deco hotel features different birds. Hohauser was one of the major architects during the Art Deco heydays of Miami Beach.

Here, gulls and pelicans grace the frieze above the hotel’s entry.

I am especially drawn to the brown pelicans. They make their winter homes here. I know spring is on the way when they start being scarce; it’s already been a month and I’ve seen very few if none. I don’t know where they choose to spend their summers. I love it when you look up any time of day to see a phalanx of them gracefully gliding through the bright sky.

The Victor Hotel, one of the granddames of Art Deco features a pelican on an exterior wall

More local birds are captured on a significant mural painted by Earl laPan in the Victor’s lobby. This beautifully restored painting captures the story of the birdlife in the Everglades, which luckily did not fall victim to late 19th-early 20th century fashion and greed

The Senator, which unfortunately did not survive the wrecking balls that threatened Miami Beach’s Art Deco district, now a national architectural treasure, featured a planter elegantly guarded over by a pelican.

A colorful medallion with sea and sun features a resting pelican on a former hotel.

Why does this seemingly awkward, yet very graceful bird appear in so many places? It is one rich in symbolism dating at least to the Egyptians.  The pelican is thought to be a symbol of healing and renewal. More recently, it entered the canon of Christian belief. According to legend, the mother pelican pierced her own breast to feed her starving young with her own blood during a distant time of famine. This legend was long-ago transformed to represent the ultimate sacrifice Christ made of humans. With her young, she guards at the entry of St. Patrick’s Church, our neighborhood Catholic church

The outer lobby of the historic Colony Theater (1934) on Lincoln Road, a noted famous pedestrian mall which in the 30s and 40s was heralded as the 5th Avenue of the South, features a mini-phalanx of abstract pelicans floating over the original terrazzo floor.

The ever-present sun and clouds are behind as the nearby ocean is below.

But where did phantasy in punk, gently floating amide the bubbles in the fountain in front of the theater fly in from? Everyone’s day and evening were brightened up by its presence.

And if you are in doubt about real birdlife … I drove home one day to find this beautiful heron in my neighbor’s yard.

As spring progresses to summer, we await the glorious blooming of the Royal Poincianas and jacarandas and, yes, the arrival of the mangos.


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