[Quail mama and tribe, Taylorsville UT, 8/26/18. Look at that little ones legs flying back there. I didn’t get a pic of the ducks from this post because I was driving and kinda wanted to live].
On my way to a sit a few days ago, I was on the stretch of 700 East where it curves around and intersects with 900 East. It’s a wide road there–like 8 lanes I think–with a lot going on, stoplights, and turn lanes, cars barreling and others merging, and another stoplight up ahead synced up with the 9th East one, so that if the first light’s green, you don’t even have to think about stopping. You can just sit your ass in your lane and jet on through.
And it was late evening, but even through my speed and the curves, I could see something up ahead moving across the road from right to left, and it took me only just a sec to realize it wasn’t just one something: it was three “somethings”, a mama duck and her two babies, crossing this road, with cars easily going 55 to 60, mama in front and babies in back, in the hot dusk and barely visible, moving across the road at a pace suggesting they were well aware of the danger.
And relatively fresh in my mind was another sit I’d done at a complex with lots of ponds, when I’d seen this mama duck and her six or seven ducklings toddling around, and as I surveyed the scene of so many ducklings in my car, I had pulled up slowly and maybe because I’m a weirdo, rolled down my window to offer her my respect as one parent to another (’cause this shit’s hard, yo) and window rolled down, as her babies scurried close by, I was telling her what a good mom she was and enjoying the moment, before looking down and noticing that nearly right under my window was the completely flattened remains of a baby duck that’d been crushed by a car. The guts were relatively fresh, and it was literally so flat that while carefully driving up–with the remains smack in the middle of the road–I hadn’t even seen it.
So of course on that dusk-night, my mind went to “oh my god; they’re going to die,” because flattened ducks happen and sometimes happy endings appear so unlikely that it seems best not to hope.
I looked to my left at the big black SUV next to me–preparing to quickly look away from the carnage lest the driver not see the mama–but he saw them and slowed, and between the two of us, the little family got to the middle of the road where they then rushed into the lanes of the oncoming traffic and out of my view but, as I turned south onto 9th East, I just happened to look in my drivers side mirror at exactly the right time and saw that somehow the little duck family had also managed to safely cross the 4 lanes going the other direction and were now together and moving towards the brown grass of the far side of the road. Out of immediate and imminent danger, hearts certainly racing, and marching forward, blessedly having edged out death so as to be graced with another day to live.
And, naturally, I was so relieved.
About a mile down the road as I relived the scene with a calmer mind, a powerful thought came through, so powerful I had to write it down. Because on that road–in a duck scene I’ve seen maybe dozens of times before–mama duck and her babies crossing in extreme danger, the road roaring with cars, feet propelling them desperately forward through what seemed like (and often is) certain death, I couldn’t get over something that I’d always before taken for granted.
For locked in my limited box of “human”, where I’m sealed into an experience and magnetically tied to the earth, I’d never before acknowledged what an improbable act of self-sacrifice it is that, in the midst of extreme danger and peril, the mother duck doesn’t just save herself and fly away.
And in opening my eyes wider, I let in an entire world. For, in a life of psychological minefields, holding to hope seems foolish until you finally see the ever-present happy endings that you never even noticed.
And the bigger truth is that Life’s not just about flattened baby ducks. Life’s also about mama ducks who don’t fly away.