In the opening chapter of Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now, what stands out for Doug in the Audubon plate titled the Arctic Tern is the "round and terrified eye." Because of the terror in the bird's eye, we can see that the bird, at first, symbolizes Doug as he faces his fears due to the hardships he endures in his home life. However, what's interesting about Arctic terns is that they are considered to be some of the strongest, most adventurous birds in existence. Scientists now know that Arctic terns follow the longest migratory route of any bird in existence. It is because the birds also symbolize strength and adventure that author Schmidt titles the final chapter of the book "The Arctic Tern" and has Doug picture himself and Lil as two Arctic terns, flying side by side, looking for adventures together. Hence, in the final chapter, the Arctic tern symbolizes Doug in his newfound sense of courage, freedom, and hope for the future.
In the second chapter, Doug sees the plate titled Red-Throated Divers hanging over the mantle in Mrs. Windemere's house. Doug notes that the drawing depicts a mother red-throated loon standing over her youngest baby, and her head is turned so that "she [is] looking far away, at something a long way out from the picture." Later, when Doug's father says something cruel to Doug, the youngest of the Swieteck brothers, Doug notes that his mother "turned and looked out the window, at something far away." It's as if she's gazing out into the distance in search of some way to protect Doug, perhaps even looking at her past, wishing she had had made better choices in her life, choices that would have kept her far away from Mr. Swieteck. Hence, as we can see, the red-throated loon with her youngest baby symbolizes Doug's mother and himself.