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Monday, September 4, 2017



A re-run from August 2012

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.


  1. I'm guessing your mum lived in the time before modern cures and vaccinations, when death was more common from what we now know as minor ailments. Having so many die before you reach adulthood brings acceptance and less fear of when it will be your time.

  2. It's not easy, yet you do go on for the sake of the rest.

  3. That saying, 'Life goes on,' is true, but sometimes a very bitter pill.

  4. I used to documet cemeteries for the Ontario Cemetery Project. In the older sections would be stones that read, "The children of...... and then a long list of childrens names" How those parents ever managed to carry on after such losses is amazing to me...but of course....they had to didn't they?

  5. Yes, nature can seem cruel .If some thing appears to be wrong with one
    baby, (I used to notice it on the kid's cats) the mother would just
    take it away and leave it. The kids would always find it and try to bring
    back to health, but it always died. The mother knows when one baby
    is ill and I imagine instinct urges the mother to dispose of it. It would
    obviously slow a pack down and no Obama Health care. LOL

  6. Like Belva, I have seen that in cats several times. Often you can't even see what is wrong with the kitten, she just knows something is wrong and abandons it. I found one such kitten. It took a lot of vet care but he lived with me for 17 years. Sadly animals don't have docs on call.

  7. I've done some work on my family tree. It wasn't that long ago (antibiotics only go back to the 1930s or so) that death was a much larger part of life than we're used to now. All but one of my grandparents had at least one sibling who died young. Back in colonial days, it was not uncommon for a man to bury one or two wives, and multiple children. . .

  8. Somebody gave us a kitten, and our other four cats shunned it. That kitten looked perfectly healthy. He ate and drank, but was pretty solemn for a kitten. We made him a box with a soft towel to sleep on, and kept the box in the garage. One morning he didn't wake up. Not a mark on him. I guess the other cats knew. My boys were devastated.

    I still tear up when I think of that little kitten. Not so much for the kitten, but my boys' reaction. At the time, though, I didn't shed a tear. That would have made it worse for them.

  9. Sad but true, we have to paddle on, animals seem to handle this better than people do though.

  10. There is no such thing as fairness in nature. We humans invented the concept to make society run more smoothly, but it isn't real.

  11. A sad but true fact of life. Good post Cranky.

  12. What a beautiful and touching post. I learned after the death of my son, that today's society really doesn't know how to handle death and grief. Even the churches don't really get into all of that. They much prefer to teach all the "fluffy" stuff. I had to learn the hard way, that death is a part of life and that as hard as it is,life has to go on. Too many times, people would enable me, telling me that it was okay to "feel the feelings". Well, I felt those feelings and hung on to them far too long and it almost set me crazy.

    Observing nature helped me - and even posts like this, continue to cement the practicality of acceptance and moving on.

  13. You've captured life well -- death is just a part of life. This was the attitude in my home growing up. Perhaps people who grew up in the days of an agrarian society, or are more in touch with nature grasp this idea more readily.