Maternal Instincts

I’ve been taking some rather mediocre bird photos, three of which I’d like to share with anybody who might be reading my blog from time to time.  The pictures are of a Muscovy or Canal Duck and her ten ducklings.  My condo is on a little lake, where there is a pleasant variety of wildlife, and from my terrace room, I’m able to observe, in a non-threatening way, the lives of many birds, turtles, and frogs. My photos are often a bit obscured by the screen that encloses my terrace, but I think the reader will be able to discern the unspoken narrative of each one.  The first is of a mother duck giving a swimming lesson to her offspring, and they are enthusiastic learners that bring right from the eggs the wonderful instincts for their aquatic frolicking, though the tikes never venture very far from Mom, who in her manner reminds me of Jemima Puddle Duck from the works of one of my favorite authors from childhood, Beatrix Potter. All this hen needs is a shawl and bonnet.

 

 Some of the ducklings are already practicing diving with expert skill, even though they are only a few days old and could fit into the palm of a child’s hand.  They play with each other but are most careful to remain within view of their mother, who seems to have an easy time of keeping her brood together in a neat little group.  At times they all seem almost like a single organism, any movement affecting other movements, no one part any more important than any other. The mother is very protective, and at one point this afternoon after the swimming lesson, she herded her ducklings out of the water for a nap.  They all fit snugly under her wings to keep warm and safe for about an hour before two or three began coming out again to play.  I was struck by the simple beauty of the scene and was reminded of a line from one of my favorite Psalms, 91:4, “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

The eastern part of the lake has a sheltered area of reeds and water grass, where some of the ducks nest and where this charming hen headed at last with her ducklings in late afternoon. I felt deeply moved by their journey together, a gentle little caravan on the water. I was privileged to watch the scene, a miniature drama undoubtedly repeated often all over the world, not always observed by humans, but a theme we share with all other living things, the need at day’s end of going home.

I’d like to end this blog entry with one of my favorite poems:

The Little Duck

Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.

It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf,

And he cuddles in the swells.

There is a big heaving in the Atlantic.

And he is part of it.

He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.

Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.

And neither do you.

But he realizes it.

And what does he do, I ask you.

He sits down in it.

He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity – which it is.

That is religion, and the duck has it.

I like the little duck.

He doesn’t know much.

But he has religion.

By Donald Babcock

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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One Response to Maternal Instincts

  1. Steve Marshall says:

    It must bee great to watch those ducklings or Goslings as rhey are also called

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