In my former life I was a mommy-blogger. At present, I’m more of a mommy-birder. (The first step is admitting it but I’m already on step 5: I own that shit.) It began with my sweet cardinal, Bernadette the Brave and, a year and a half later, I pretty much have penguins in my backyard begging for a bite.
If we cross paths, you’ll likely find me with my camera strung around my neck. I fell head over heals in love with photography and nature, connecting strongly with both, they’ve completed a space in my soul that I’ve been searching to fill my entire life.
The past several months have been incredibly trying. Yes, I am going through a divorce. No, I won’t get into why. I’ll only say that it’s been a long time coming and that we are all doing pretty well with the changes. We are still a family and we always will be. We just look different.
But, this? This isn’t about divorce. It’s about something much more serious.
This is about the other D-word.
I drive passed an empty lot everyday on the way to drop my youngest at school. It sits on a busy intersection in the middle of the city, surrounded by a gas station, a doughnut shop, and tiny boxes with people. It’s just about the only undeveloped piece of land in the area.
The large lot is overgrown, uneven, and graced with cool little ponds that have formed over the months compliments of mother nature. A pair of ducks have taken up residency in the largest rainwater pool and each morning we slow down to marvel at the sweet couple. After we’ve passed, I promise myself I’ll get pictures of them.
* * *
The other day on my way home I spotted a beautiful stormy sunset.
I was desperate to capture it, but every time I thought I was closing in I was fooled. I drove and drove and drove, chasing the gigantic storm cloud until, before I knew it, I’d driven at least three miles. When I came to, I found myself right at rain-duck pond.
Here’s my chance!
I pulled over on an adjacent street, grabbed my camera, and hopped out of the car. Immediately, I was rewarded with a killdeer, who scampered quickly across the street not far from where I was standing.
Then, like a double-rainbow, I discovered there wasn’t just one, but two of them. A killdeer couple! I kept my distance and when the two parted ways stayed focused on the one who remained closest. At first glance, she appeared to be standing alone but, seconds later, little killdeer chicks began spilling out from underneath her body.
It was basically like a clown car.
Wow! Three chi…
And, they just kept coming.
I was in bird-nerd heaven! I spent so much time mesmerized by the Killdeer that I completely forgot about the duck couple.
The duck couple!
I swung by body around in search of them but, being that it was an overcast day and I was trying to keep a respectful distance, it wasn’t easy. Finally, though, I spotted them. And they did not disappoint!
With the male’s head resting gently on his girl, it was like a Disney movie – simple, romantic, and perfect. It wasn’t until I’d shot several pictures of the lovely couple that the feeling of doom began to fill my gut. The female duck did not appear to be moving. Like, at all. Her head was tilted sideways resting on the pond’s surface.
I frantically began Googling various combinations of the same thing.
How do ducks sleep?
Duck sleeps head on water.
Motionless duck sleeping for the love of god please someone tell me it’s not dead.
But, the only conclusion I reached was one I’d reached long ago: the internet is a rabbit hole of stupidity. So, I scrolled through the photos I’d taken searching for a sign — any sign — of not a dead duck. But, every picture I studied only intensified my gut-doom.
Slowly, I accepted my fears for what they were.: a reality.
THE FEMALE DUCK WAS CAPSIZING AND QUICK!
She was either really sick or really dead and, to make matters worse, her loyal beau refused to leave her side. It was like a tragic Shakespearean romance, only starring ducks who were wearing neither wigs nor white powder.
I ran back to my car, searched for my phone, and quickly tapped out a text to my friend and wildlife rehabber, Amanda.
I waited for a moment to see if she’d reply, but she was either busy saving animals or busy saving animals. I began sorting through my options and walking away wasn’t one of them.
What if the female was still alive and needed help?
What if the female was dead and the male was going to stay by her body until…it was no longer a body?
The only thing left for me to do was approach them and, either rescue the dying female, or offer grief counseling to her widow. Luckily I was wearing rain boots so making my way through the mud and overgrown grass, teeming with insects and whoknowswhat, was less terrifying than it could have been.
With cars buzzing by I crept over to the ducks and, not having infinite (or any) knowledge regarding ducks, became more and more nervous with every step. The thought of them offing me by pecking me into a million pieces made me simultaneously laugh and cry, because how appropriate.
Grow some balls, Allison. They’re god damn ducks not tigers.
With my new large pair intact, I finally made it over to them. Careful not to startle the already fragile duo, I stood motionless and simply observed…nothing. They didn’t move towards me. They didn’t move away from me. In fact, they didn’t move at all. I reminded myself that they were facing in the opposite direction, while convincing myself that someone, somewhere, at some point had informed me that ducks are hard of hearing.
Hi, sweet babies!
Here ducky, ducky, ducky.
HEY YOU WITH THE WEBBED-FEET GOD DAMN IT I AM TALKING TO YOU HAVE YOU NO RESPECT?
I got as close as I could to the water’s edge and that’s when I noticed something odd. The female, still on lying on her side, appeared to have a small log in place of where her feet should have been.
WHAT THE DUCK? WHERE ARE YOUR FEET?
After a thirty minute delay, the realization of what was happening finally reached my brain – and my hands reached for my phone.
I solemnly typed out a brief follow-up to Amanda, who I imagined was sick with worry and hastily putting together a team of professional duck rescuers.
I tucked my phone back into my pocket, looked around for the candid camera, and walked back towards my car. Slowly, so as not to startle the plastic ducks.