Ducklings bounce. They do.
The mother wood duck at the bottom of the large elm tree coaxed each of her fluffy gray ducklings from the wooden box nailed to the trunk. First, with a low cluck-cluck-cluck, and then with a more insistent CLUCK- CLUCK- CLUCK!!! One by one, the babies’ dark heads emerged. Each one looked down. They listened. And when they were ready, each one perched at the round hole on the side of the box and jumped.
When they hit the grass far below, they bounced.
Some of them recovered by sitting for a bit, blinking and stunned by what they’d just accomplished. Others bounced once and then took to running in wild, wobbly circles, dizzy from the fall. Instinctively, some ran right to Mama to wait for further instructions while others tried to take off into the big world on their own. An hour later, after the last one had finally launched itself and was safely on the ground, the hen organized her brood of twelve and down to the river they marched. Single file. Twelve tiny gray minions and one very hoarse mama duck.
The first time I ever saw this miracle, I was about twelve years old. My grandmother had come into the house at the lake and told us to look out the bedroom window because “it” was happening. My Sis and I knew what “it” was. We’d seen the mother wood duck go in and out of the nest many times each day that June with food in her bill so we knew she’d hatched her eggs. Yesterday, as I avoided the rotten stump of that elm tree with the mower for what seemed like the hundredth time, I remembered that soft twelve year old summer morning and my grandmother’s voice telling us to watch something amazing. To keep watching. To not miss the small, but amazing miracle happening right under our noses. It is one of the best lessons she taught us.
My wise and very funny sister draws parallels between baby wood ducks and children. How some of them approach life by jumping into it confident and sure while others hold back to see how things are going to work out for the other ones. Some have a hard time focusing long enough to find the hole in the box, at all. We’ve raised five child ducklings between us. Each one is a completely different duck, for sure. We have a couple who’ve leapt into life full force with a hardy “woo hoo!” and a couple others who’ve waddled around a little lost until they’ve found their feet. The baby duckling is still in the nest. She is a dreamer with a capital D more prone to focusing on the lovely wood grain on the inside of the weathered box than flight. That’s okay. One day she’ll find the hole, too. That’s what I tell my sister.
She’ll bounce, just like the rest did. And like the others, she’ll find her way to the river. They all do, eventually. On their terms. No matter how much clucking we do.
It’s kind of a miracle, actually.