By Mike Traynor
The First Lesson
He was alone at the foot of the park bench. I sat down in front of him. We eyed each other hesitantly, surprised to be sharing the moment. For me, out for a stroll at lunch, sitting on a favored bench, while feeding almonds to squirrels. For the mallard, its final hours alive.
We welcomed each other’s presence. Hobbling slowly, he tried to reach the strewn almonds amidst a flurry of squirrels angling for food. The mallard’s leg was badly injured. Without means to heal him, I gave him all of my almonds, one at a time. This was probably the most nutritious feast he ever had, or ever will.
We sat together afterward, exchanging what I would like to believe were expressions of mutual gratitude. Then I went off to my fate, and he awaited his own. Each of us had filled the other to the brim.
A Second Lesson
The clearing was deserted as I sat on the bench a week later. Then with a loud flutter at water’s edge, a mallard rose upward, flew straight at me, and landed at my knee. He gazed intently at me, and with shocking surprise I recognized him, observing his injured foot to be healing nicely, and his walking steadier. A reunion!
Could it be that gorging on a timely almond meal helped deflect its otherwise gruesome fate? Could it be that he had waited patiently at water’s edge until the moment arrived to show me that answer in plain sight?
After happily eating a few more almonds from my hand, the mallard took flight into its unknowable future. I knew I would not see it again. It had completed what it needed to do. Now it was time for me to take flight too, grateful to have been gifted with a renewed trust in the magic of new beginnings.
Every duck (really every creature) can present a lesson. All you need do is pause and imagine. Some other ducks with lessons…