Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In Memory of a Mother Duck

The wonders of nature have been forefront in my mind this year as I have travelled through the months. I've spent a fair number of miles behind the wheel of my car and the landscape around me has evolved from frozen and white to the various stages of spring. My last trip, Mother Nature was really outdoing herself. The trees had come back to life, the grass in the ditches was waving in the wind and the birds were out in full force.

I love watching the birds. It starts with those V-formations in the sky as the Canadian geese head northward, spotting ducks swimming and diving in the sloughs, the hawks as they soar in the wind and even our hardy birds that weather our Canadian winters seem a little more playful as the summer weather starts to return.

I was on the road bright and early this trip and the birds were out for an early morning stroll across the highway.

I was reminiscing about an unfortunate incident from last year when I was driving home on a busy summer Sunday. I was going highway speed when I noticed something long and low to the ground in the distance. It looked like something akin to a big garbage bag wafting across the highway when I first noticed it. By the time I drove up and saw it was a mother duck and her ducklings crossing the highway, it was too late to do anything about it. I had cars coming up behind me and the only thing I could do was take my foot off the gas and not make any sudden moves.

I felt ill as I looked in my rear view mirror to see the mother duck went down behind me. Her young little family was little more than a blur when the next round of cars came upon them as quickly as I had. The feeling and visual of that little duck family is still vivid in my mind a year later.

I was thinking of this little family on my quiet morning highway drive when I noticed something on the highway ahead. Having the highway to myself, I had the luxury of slowing down before I approached whatever it was. Sure enough, it was a pair of ducks. Two adults this time. They were walking along the highway in the lane I wasn't in, so I had the opportunity to appreciate them as I coasted past them. As I got close to them, they simply flew away. They flew.

Yes, of course! Ducks can fly. When these two adult ducks had no one else to consider but themselves, they simply flew away. My mother duck from last year didn't fly away. She didn't abandon her family to save herself. She stayed where she was, at the head of the line of her family and "took the hit". She sacrificed herself for her children.

At no point since my duck accident last year, did I even consider the fact that the mother duck could have flown away the moment she realized her life was in jeopardy. It never even dawned on me. Until these two adult ducks, without a family in tow, simply flew away when I got too close.

I was still in awe of the wonder of "motherhood" in all shapes and forms when I saw something off in the distance. This time, it was a goose family. They are taller and stand out much better than a low lying duck does and this time I (once again) had the luxury of a quiet highway to slow my pace and even brake as I got closer.

A mother goose, four little goslings and a father goose bringing up the rear crossed the highway safely. When they had made it to safety and I drove past, the father lifted his wings and swooped up off the ground in what I feel was a "thank you wave".

I may not have realized what was on the horizon if it had not been for that mother duck and her duckings last year. The mother duck who lost her life for the love of her family last year has made a lasting impact within me.

I think of that mother duck often. I still quietly mourn the loss of her and her family. If only she had known not to cross the highway during peak hours, she may have been saved.

She did not die in vain. A mother will literally take a bullet to save her child. Whether they are human or a bird or many other living creatures.

I was telling my mom this story and we both marvelled at the wonder of motherhood. As our visit progressed, we started talking of mother cats and Mom mentioned that the tom cats will kill the kittens. "Once the mother has kittens, she will have nothing to do with the male so the tom will try to kill the kittens to get her attention again." "Hmmm..." I replied. "I'm even more like a cat than I realized."

I think I'd rather think like a duck.

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