If there were a single theme for the lives of most people, it would be The Unexpected. So common is this theme, there are many clichés describing it, phrases like “life threw me a curve ball”, or “expect the unexpected”. We may wish for predictability, and certainly there are predictable outcomes to some of our actions and words, even Nature is predictable in many ways, but the unexpected is always just around the corner. With climate change, even the predictability of the seasons and Nature’s cycles of birth and death are shifting and changing in unexpected ways. The Earth itself has behaved more unpredictable in recent years.
A popular quote from Buckminster Fuller is “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” Our lives are our greatest experiments and the unexpected events, people, challenges, and blessings, that come to us indicate discovery, successes, the ebb and flow of our journey.
So why am I waxing philosophically this morning about the unexpected nature of life events? During the past weeks, as we ride the tidal wave of changes in mom’s life, with the accompanying emotions and demands on our time and energy, there has been a side-story, a duck story, and a few days ago, it threw us “a curve ball”.
We returned in June from our two-week wedding trip to discover a raccoon had dug under the pens and killed both our little hen, Millie, and Gray Duck, a pet of 8 years. We felt devastated by such a loss of two sweet birds whose comical ways and personable personalities provided entertainment, diversion and balance in our hectic lives. We were faced with a dilemma, do we call it quits, find a new home for our remaining lone duck, ending decades of poultry pets, or do we begin again? It seemed like a simple choice since we had previously decided to let go of bird raising when the last ones died. Here we were at that crossroad and unsure of our decision. Black Duck (we are so creative with naming ducks!) was broody, laying unfertilized eggs daily, which gave us options. Get her some fertilized eggs to sit on or find her some buddies to live with. We went for it, found someone with (supposedly) fertile Muscovy eggs, bought 8, and put them under her. Now for the math…2 eggs broke immediately, leaving six for the long incubation period of 35 days. Still not sure of our commitment, we were too preoccupied finding Mom a new place to live, an unexpected change of course in her life, to think much about a setting duck. She was doing her thing and required little attention. But after investing in and building the Taj Mahal of duck pens (as my older brother calls it), we were getting excited about having a little flock of ducklings again. I was counting the days. 35 days came and went. We began to think of plan B, after all, we had this super-coop ready to house someone! I contacted a woman who had ducklings to sell, some a few weeks old, others a few months. Maybe Black Duck would take to the young ones and raise them, or maybe it would be better to get the older ones, already independent, and let her get use to them as they mature. Then the miracle happens, Tuesday evening a tiny duckling appeared under Black Duck. I check the next morning, still just one. Holding them up to the sun, I find two eggs full of liquid (infertile) and toss them. Later in the day she tossed another, leaving a stinky rotten egg smell in the coop. Worried about the little one not being cared for as she continues to sit, I take water to the nest, and a plate of food, cradle the soft little one in my hand and introduce it to water. It drinks, Mama eats and drinks like she is starving. Day two. Still only one duckling. Still two eggs. The hard choice. Remove the eggs, bury them, not knowing for sure, but assuming nothing is alive in them. Then she will get up and care for her one little duckling. I will wait, maybe give her one more day and do the sad deed tonight. (see below for update)This was not expected. None, or some. Not one. One is both joyous and sad. One is not enough, for her or for us. It will be raised as an ‘only duck’! I’ve raised Muscovy ducks for decades and never have I had just one hatchling. Yet there she/he is, one little yellow and black fuzzy life form, already curious, already in wonder, already wonderful. We can’t bring in older ducklings who would be bigger than this little fuzzy one. Black Duck, in her mother protective mode would likely view them as intruders.
Plans for the fancy new duck house are ditched. Black Duck (for now called Mama Duck, named after our wonderful white Mama Duck), with our help, will move into the new security coop, and in a small older house, raise her single little duckling. We will pray each day it thrives and survives. Mama will nurture it, and raise it as her baby, but it will grow to be either her sister or her mate.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men, and ducks, often go awry.”
Such is the unexpected.
Afternoon update: Checked the last two eggs, they too are full of liquid…rotten, infertile eggs. I grab Black Duck, tuck her under my arm, pick up her duckling, and off we go to the new coop. A spontaneous move made without thought to the consequences. I know full well a setting duck, not wanting to soil her nest, gets up once a day to void, a yellow, stinky, thick liquid. My clothes are now in the washing machine, after a thorough hosing of the left side of my body, clothes and all. Thank goodness it’s 90 degrees out!
Below is our new little one, already wet, already starting to preen and fluff herself…..those instincts kick in immediately!