Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lord Love a Duck

I was driving, pulling out of a parking lot in the city, when something ran across the asphalt in front of me. I hit the brakes. A mother duck and four (or five) very, very small fuzzy ducklings ran across the asphalt lane, heading east, toward a park. The mother was intent on leading her babies -- who were too young to follow in an orderly way. They bobbed up and down like fuzzy bubbles, ran after her, stopped, and bumped into each other, scattering like billiard balls.

I was delighted. At such moments I turn back into a little kid. "Duckies!! Hello, duckies," I thought -- or maybe I said.

It was only later that I began to think that they had half a mile to go to get to the park and its pond. The little ones were on duck feet they hardly knew how to use. They would have to cross a notoriously busy, accident-generating intersection. And I began to think: Crossing there is tricky even for people! How will the ducks make it? Will drivers even see them? Will somebody call a cop to stop the traffic and let them pass -- as in the kids' book Make Way for Ducklings? No, not likely. . . Maybe they'd just run the ducks over! Maybe just the babies! Maybe just the mom! And then what would the babies do?

I wonder what happened between my sense of delight and the formation of a useless worry? What habit of thought took over my mind -- and turned a sudden moment of delight into a fear?

I assumed that other drivers would not delight in the duck family, and not brake for them. What a judgment -- on people I've never even met! And in this scene I cast myself as one of the sensitive, appreciative people, the rare ones. Ech! What a swamp of ego and assumptions and snap judgments and self-deceptions! Sheesh!

If I wrote this as a scene in a story, in the third person, about a fictional character who thought she was one of the sensitive, perceptive ones, while most others were coarse-grained and brutish. . .

Next time, let me say "God bless you" to the ducks, wish them well, and leave it at that!

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