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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

YOU HAVE TO PADDLE ON

YOU HAVE TO PADDLE ON


Mother Nature can be very cruel.  When I was on my honeymoon with Mrs. Cranky almost two years ago I witnessed this fact in all its sad clarity.  It had nothing to do with Mrs. C.; it had to do with a family of ducks.

We were at a lovely resort in the Dominican Republic.  The walk from our room to breakfast each morning passed a decorative pond.  In this pond were a mother duck and five ducklings that were no more than a week old.  I am a bird lover.  I particularly love water fowl.  I spent several minutes each morning observing this momma duck and her babies.

The ducks would paddle all around the pond, momma with the five babies close behind.  I noticed one of the ducklings did not follow so well.  He had some sort of a problem with his foot or leg.  It was a struggle for him to swim as straight or as fast as his brothers and sisters.

The first day or two, momma would notice.  She would let out a quack and slow down a bit until the imperfect duckling could catch up.

On the third day, the ducklings became explorers.  Momma let them roam, still keeping an eye on them.  The imperfect duckling strayed further and further from the pack.  When momma let out a quack he had quite the struggle to catch up.  At some point momma seemed to not give the imperfect duck the same leeway to catch up as she did on previous days.

Momma had four other ducklings to care for.  She had four other ducklings to teach to feed and teach to avoid danger.  It was as if she knew that letting her deformed duckling catch up would endanger the other ducklings.

On the fourth day the little duckling appeared lost.  He could not keep up with his siblings and momma had given up on him.  I don’t know where the ducks retired to at night.  I guess it was a nest hidden away in some reeds or some bushes.  I don’t think the sad little duck with the bad foot found the hideout on the fourth night.

On the fifth day, the day we were to leave the resort, I watched the momma duck and four ducklings.  Momma would quack, count four and then swim off.  The imperfect duckling was nowhere to be found.

A snake, a cat, a large predatory bird, or maybe one of the large lizards that the tourists gawk at so much had caught the duckling.

I figured he would not survive, I was just hoping he would not lose his battle until after we left the island.  I wonder if momma duck was as sad as I was to not count five ducklings that morning.  I am sure she was, but she has been conditioned to expect that some of her flock would not make it.  That is how hard nature can be. 

I think back to my mom.  She lost a baby sister.  Her mom and her dad passed before she was a teen.  I remember her showing me pictures of her teen years.  “Oh those were the Taylor twins, handsome boys…they died the next year…flu.  That was Sally Clemons…she caught a bad cough and died.” 

Mom had an apparent easy acceptance of death.  Sometimes I thought she was a bit callous, but now I realize that to her death was a way of life.  It wasn’t easy, but it was always there.  You could be sad, but you had to move on, had to get over your losses in order to survive.

Mother Nature can be cruel, but like the mother duck, you have to count to four, quack a few times, and then paddle on.  You have to paddle on for yourself and for the other four.

16 comments:

  1. I can't think of anything pithy to say; your words express very well the unfairness of life and expose one of the reasons it is to be cherished.

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  2. Thank you for sharing this story, you have stirred many emotions in me.

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  3. What a lovely story Cranky...Sad but lovely and so so true

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  4. That is so sad. But perhaps the little duck was just resting at home and he grew up to be a gorgeous big duck with a happy family of his own. Well, that's what I'm going to think anyway.

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  5. It's a cruel unfair world we live in. I imagine animals just struggle to survive and don't have much chance to mourn. Fortunately we have feelings and compassion.

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  6. It's called natural selection. The strongest survive and pass on those survival genes to their progeny. It's cruel to watch, but that is the way nature works. We could intervene, raise that duckling and let it live out it's natural life. But it's not probable to do that with every wayward animal. Sadly, death is part of life. Your mom was wise to understand and accept that and boldly, move on.

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  7. Excelente and going into my faves. Gracias y BB2U.

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  8. convert! Jesus is the Good Shepard..He'll come back for the lost sheep.

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  9. Okay...so I'm thinking what the heck was wrong with that mama duck?!! I have a duckling that limps! She cannot use her right arm, either, and has vision impairments. A brain injury at the age of four did that to her. But yet I did not leave her behind to fend for herself! Sure she lags behind just a little bit....but WE wait for her! Sheesh! Would it have hurt that mama duck to just slow down a bit and wait for her little one with the lame foot to catch up? I slow down for mine! And where was the papa duck during all this? Why didn't HE do something to help his crippled offspring?

    Okay, okay...I know I'm getting waaay to into this, LOL. I swear I probably would have scooped up that lame little baby duck and raised it myself, just because I believe every duck has value and no duck should be left behind! Poor little guy :(

    (I know...it's nature and all that...blah blah blah. But I still would have intervened. Maybe. Well, my husband would have stopped me. Damn papa ducks have no feelings.)

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  10. A very touching post, Cranky. We watched what we knew would be the eventual demise of a sparrow a couple of weeks back. At first, it just appeared that the bird was a bit dim. Then it became obvious that it was struggling.. with balance mostly. Eventually it stopped flying and began falling while eating the offered seed. And that was the last we saw of it. All happened over the course of 3 or 4 days. We figure it was probably West Nile. In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have named him. :/

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  11. Oh Nature can be so hard. I felt like crying while reading your post because I wanted the little duck to be ok. Rachel x

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  12. I'm originally from Indonesia. Being the 5th most populous country in the world, all crowded on an archipelago, death is very much just a part of nature.
    Car accidents, illnesses, natural disasters - it's all too prevalent for my liking when I hear my relatives talk but they just accept it as a part of life. Maybe that's why they're all so religious. Who knows.

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  13. So very true. A great post. I guess those left behind do have to paddle on, no matter how harsh that might seem...

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  14. We are indeed very very lucky to be living in times (or places) where this basic truth is so horribly shocking -instead of something we live with. Great post.
    I do believe animals grieve. I've seen birds very upset when a chick dies or is lost. But it's true - they have to keep paddling on, and they do.

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  15. This is a great post Joeh! I will share. Thanks for Rewinding.

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  16. it is never easy to watch. never.

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