The air is heavy with the scent of lilacs. Trees are bowed with pale green leaves, and blossoms of pink and violet. Drivers slow while mother mallards and their newly hatched ducklings scurry across roads to ponds and lakes. It's spring in Minnesota.
Evidently ducks and I have a thing going on. Last year it was watching over Mrs. Mallard and her injured leg. This spring it's three new born orphaned ducklings. I don't know why— I just love them. My husband wonders if maybe I watched too many Daffy Duck cartoons as a child.
It was pure delight watching the mother duck with her little flock hurrying behind, cross yards toward the lake. Delight became horror when I saw a dog lunge at them and the mother flew up then fell to the ground with flapping wings. By the time I got there, the ducklings were no where to be found. I noticed the mother duck still captured the full attention of the dog and was managing to stay just out of reach. So I found the dog owners and pleaded with them to take their dog inside. While we were pulling the dog in, Mama duck corraled her hidden brood and they all took off, lickety-split, towards the street. One little guy, mistakenly left behind, came chirping out of the brush— so I grabbed him up and ran off looking for the little mallard family only to find another horrifying situation.
Leading them down the street this time, all of her babies had fallen through the grates of the storm sewer. When I arrived, my husband and two heroic neighbors had taken apart the drains and fished out eleven of the ducklings, and Mama duck had run off with her little family again. We could still hear the cries of more ducklings in the drains, and when the guys tried to grab them, the ducklings instinctively ran away. I can tell you I was ready to dig up that street to find them! I am so grateful for the kindness and patience of our rescuers. These guys crawled into the sewer drains and patiently waited for each duckling to wander back toward the light and gently handed them to safety. We put the ducklings in a bucket and each time one came out of the sewer, we thought, "Hurray! Now all is well." But tiny chirping sounds continued to come from the drains. Someone brought a video camera that allowed us to see into the drain pipes and count the ducklings. One more. It was getting dark. Suppers were burning on stoves. Finally patience paid off and the last duckling came close enough to be pulled to safety. I was so engrossed by the three downy babies in my bucket, I didn't notice my neighbors had packed their tools, replaced the drain covers and disappeared into their houses.
Scott and I searched the neighborhood for the mother and her flock with no success. So, there we were with a bucket of baby ducklings and no idea how to care for them. Thankfully, Google gave us some answers. We made a gruel of cereal, water and mashed peas for their supper, and set up a spotlight from my studio, to warm their towel-lined nest in the bucket. They didn't stop chirping until the wee hours. The next morning I was relieved to find them still breathing and very hungry, but I worried because they were much quieter. Within a couple hours I delivered them to a wild animal rehabilitation center where they joined twelve other orphans in a warm, incubated pen. In about six weeks they will be old enough to survive on their own and the rehab group will release them back to mother nature.
I call the ducklings my triple treasure. They gave us the opportunity to experience patience, kindness and generosity with a directness and simplicity that is not to be found in a book or on a zafu. Right here. No practice required. Just open your eyes.
huddle together for warmth—
warming my heart, too