The Smallest Duckling

Duckling May01

It’s the first day of May, and I’m at a small boating lake in the town I grew up in. Keeping my Pa company while his wife—my stepmum—is coming round in hospital from a major operation. This is his therapy room during those restless hours outside visiting time.

Model boats on a shallow pool, songs of many birds in huge trees nearby and a gentle ‘whoosh’ or two as ducks come in to land. Daisies by the million, and here comes Pa with his little yellow boat, number 37 on its sails. ‘Cool Custard’ transferred onto its hull. Sun glinting, wind calming a worried face.

A soft brummy lilt from another boater: “Have you seen the baby ducklings yet? They’re down the end, over there.” And he points. And yes, a few hundred metres around the pond, there they are: mother and her nine fluffy babies.

What is more compelling – watching the excitement of these tiny little fluff-bombs paddling fast out into open water for the sheer adventure and being-aliveness of it all, or the care of mother duck floating about with them quietly quacking to keep them in line and fighting with moorhens to keep her brood safe?

It’s this little one that puts a wooden spoon into my heart and stirs it around. The straggler – small, vulnerable, alone, slower than the rest, determined. Last in the group, but not forgotten, and still determined to have a go like all the others. Covered by mother and her size and her gaze and her having been there and done that and knowing just what’s what around here, especially when herons and gulls swoop in for a kill. She’s in charge but knows freedom to roam is the only way each little one will find their swimming feet and strength. Going through it is the only way they’ll know their own strength.

Shelter, for even the tiniest, slowest one.

Even the tiniest, slowest one is worth hanging back for when she braves paddling across a wide open pond to find out just how far those little legs and as yet undeveloped wings are going to take her.

Everything to play for.

I am willing her on with every bone in my body.

{Today’s Soundtrack: Kiasmos – Blurred}


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