Saturday, as the sun’s rosy fingers were doing whatever they wanted without our knowledge because we were asleep and it was 5:00 for godssake, we were awakened by a crash on the metal roof over our heads. Given the layers of insulation between ceiling and roof, this was both unusual and unexpected. “What the…?!”
We listened to a skidding and downward slide of whatever mass had just crashed, and then a kind of flip-flapping back up to the roof’s crest, accompanied by a few more crashes, slides, and flip-flaps…Slowly, as we breathed and listened our way into wakefulness, steadying our hearts and hushing our initial fear, we realized our new springtime visitors had returned.
They form an interesting arrangement of ducks, a kind of family, or harem, or ménage a trois, consisting of a male and a female mallard and a domestic white duck of indeterminate sex. We do not judge. They amuse and intrigue us, and remind us of The Far Side cartoons by Doug Larson.
The three of them have been visiting the yard each morning, swimming in the river and then wobbling up the lawn, or flying in and landing near the gardens and irritating the dickens out of Riley (“bark, bark bark!”), who believes it’s her duty to keep all other life forms away from her territory. This includes squirrels, turkeys, chipmunks, rabbits, foxes, hikers and bikers on the trail…and now, ducks. Riley loves to sit on the window seat and survey her property–everything she can see and smell–with the puffy self-righteousness of the King of Siam, and bark her commands, fully expecting them to be honored. (“Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!”) Alas; she is inside and the other life forms are outside, free to ignore her protests.
After we assured Riley (and Clancy, who imitates his sister without a lot of circumspection) that we were all very safe, I went out with my camera, but the ducks were intolerant of my paparazza intrusion and flew away after a shot that captured only the two that were immediately visible.
On Sunday morning, just the female mallard returned, this time to the garage roof, so I shot a few photos from the living room window. Her two companions were near; we’d seen them fly just beyond the garage into the front acreage. We think perhaps a nest may be somewhere in the yard and that the rooftop vantage points allow for them to scan and protect their eggs or young ducklings. We don’t want to frighten them or disturb their nest if this is the case, so we’ve been cautiously tending those gardens and carefully cutting the lawn in the area where we suspect the nest might be.
In the past we have had tortoises crawl up from the river to hollow out bowls of earth and lay their eggs, but this hasn’t happened for many years. We have rabbits nesting on the property almost every year, and we once had a skunk give birth (and get a very wide berth in return, though the babies were unbelievably cute) in the front acre we call “the field.” Wild turkeys emerge from the woods, parading their young in dutiful lines every year, and bird nests are everywhere. But I believe these would be our first ducklings, if indeed a nest is somewhere among the grasses or gardens.
I hope so.
We watched a program on PBS last night filmed and narrated by a young couple who spent a year in the River of No Return Wilderness area of Idaho. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/river-of-no-return/introduction/7618/) The husband, a wolf biologist, had worked with the Nez Perce tribe to reintroduce wolves to this wilderness region, which covers 2.5 million acres. One evening, the couple observe a wounded elk limping up a hillside and hear the wolves begin to call and surround her. The husband admits his pain in observing her likely death, when he is surprised by the appearance of another elk cow that places herself between the wolves and her wounded elk “friend.” More surprisingly, they endure the night together and walk/limp off together in the morning, the wolves nowhere in sight.
“Nothing in my biology texts had prepared me for this,” says the husband in his voice-over.
No, we cannot say we truly know what all other animals feel, and need, or the ways they form connection and community. It is a reminder that all of life figures it out as it goes along; there is instinct; there are patterns; there are expectations; there is evolution, procreation, creative creation; and there is surprise. There are bonds that speak of love. We are not here to judge or condemn, but to celebrate such unions.
There is mystery.
The daily round is just that; we chase round the days, weeks, months and years; the seasons pass one into the next as the earth revolves and our lives return again to the same place… but different. And it’s the lovely surprise of these differences that keeps me awake and passionately in love with life at Full Moon Cottage and therefore passionately in love with life and its unions everywhere. Anything can happen, the duck trio reminds me: keep your eyes open, and your heart and mind as well…hold reverence for it all; let it be as it is. Celebrate love.
Respond with awe.