August 8, 2022: 9, 8, 7 Little Miracles
Quite some time ago, we had a particularly harsh and long winter. We have several bird feeders outside our kitchen window. We love watching the colorful species of birds that come and go, as does our cat, though she is likely more interested in (if not aggravated by) the thieving chipmunks and acrobatic squirrels.
We had a problem with the bird feeders freezing over that year, so my husband began throwing a little seed on the driveway after the plow guy had cleared the snow. But the birds, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits (and a few rodents, ugh) weren't the only ones finding our seed. To our surprise, ducks started showing up, and later, baby ducks.
As the years went by, this became the norm. Since we live on a lake, it's not uncommon for 30-50 ducks to wait for us to throw a bit of seed early in the morning. Some will wait in safety across the road; others will choose the neighbor's front yard that edges our driveway.
This year, we had an unusually hot spring, with some days in the 90s. One pair of ducks discovered we had a tiny water feature in our backyard. Apparently, they decided it was their private resort with a built-in pool. On many days, we'd find Mrs. Quackers (as hubby dubbed her) either in the pond or in the shade under a patio chair. (Mr. Quackers did his duty to keep her company, most times.) We kept expecting to find they'd nested nearby, but day after day, there they were in the pond and no little ones appeared.
Meanwhile, another pair began joining the morning herd, eventually bringing along eleven beautiful ducklings. They didn't come around much, but as they grew, I began referring to them as the "eleven ladies," as they would move in elegant unison as they exited our driveway. Their grace reminded me of Victorian ladies at a southern ball.
To our surprise, one day Mrs. Quackers came marching up our driveway, head held high, followed by nine nearly-newborn ducklings. She let us ooh and awe over them and throw a bit of seed. Their little bodies floated across the drive when they scurried off. (It's amazing how fast they can move.) Thinking they would turn and head back to the lake, instead, Mrs. Quackers nudged them toward the backyard and "her" private little water resort. One by one they jumped into our little pond, made a few loop-de-loops, then out the back side, around the far side of the house, and back out across the street to the lake.
Sadly, after only a day, number nine disappeared.
The arrival of the ducklings became a 3-4 times a day routine. The babies and Mrs. Quackers would show up outside our kitchen window. If they heard me at the door, they would edge nearer, their excited peeps like cries of joy. Throwing a bit of seed, I would count the eight, praise them, then return inside. The braver ones would sneak off to the backyard pond before Mama was ready, then off they would all go for their twenty-second swim.
Something horrible happened.
While still very tiny, one of the babies got too close to another full-grown duck. I watched in horror as she picked it up by its tiny leg, shook it, and threw it back to the ground.
Although it returned to the brood and hurried off when they left, in subsequent days, it often held that leg folded up close to its body. Due to the evident injury, it either stood on one leg or sat on the driveway to eat. Yet, it could walk with an exaggerated waddle when needed. I would send prayers out to it when they arrived. There was little else I could do. After a couple of weeks, it began walking normally. Did our prayers help? Maybe it was a little miracle.
As these ducklings grew, our love for them grew too. Something about this brood was special. I admit I became attached to them.
As I went to bed one evening, hubby pointed out that "our" babies were out at the edge of the lake. The waves were choppy and they were in a more precarious area between a boat ramp and a human swimming area. I felt worried for them, but, again, what could I do except trust Mrs. Quackers knew how to care for her young?
I didn't see them again until the next evening. A herd of ducks showed up in the driveway asking for seed. I didn't hear the "babies" (who were now about 1/2 grown) but further up the driveway toward the backyard, I heard their familiar cries. I looked and saw seven of the babies, minus Mrs. Quackers. They seemed in distress (maybe wanted Mama?) They wanted their share of the seed but were afraid of the other frenzied, full-grown ducks. I threw some their way wondering where their sister had got to. Had Mrs. Quackers gone to look for her? Had something happened the night before in the higher waves?
That night, we had a terrible storm. I couldn't sleep. Part of me wanted to run out into the night looking for and protecting those baby ducks. The logical part of me knew that would be a bad idea. There were, after all, wild. This was part of their learning. This was the circle of life. Unable to sleep, I kept wondering, did Mama come back for them and show them how to protect themselves in this harsh weather? Were they somewhere safe? What about the missing two? (My mind concocted all sorts of scenarios.)
The next morning, I watched impatiently waiting for them to arrive for their morning visit. Nothing. Not one of the babies appeared. I thought my heart would break. Throughout the day I waited, but they never came. I even walked along the lake's edge looking for ducks (none were to be found, but the lake extends beyond sight.)
Finally, the next afternoon, Mrs. Quackers came up the driveway. I began counting. One, two, three. . . eight! There were eight! She had found the lost one and all were back together. They seemed more flighty that day (or maybe I was a bit too excited). They were found! Another small miracle?!
So those were miracles we referred to as "seven" (who lost and found their sister) and "eight" (who's leg healed). Maybe my miracle thinking doesn't make sense, but in their young life, they had already faced a lot, while also inspiring me and increasing my faith.
And that's how it ended. Except it didn't. What about miracle nine?
A few mornings after number eight had been found, the morning herd came waddling up the driveway. Among them was a random baby duck about the size of "our" babies. While we can't prove it, and we could be totally wrong, we decided to declare that one was the missing ninth baby, who for whatever reason had found its own way or been adopted by another duck. We've only seen it twice, but it's out there. . . swimming. . . growing. .. miracle making. (Nine, eight, seven little miracle ducks.)