Possumhaw: When loss is a good thing

January 7, 2013 9:38:13 AM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


The telescope stands poised at the window, aimed at the deer feeder. At dawn and twilight a Bardwell can be seen standing with eye pressed to the scope, but on this morning I swung the scope toward the lake. A flock of geese had descended and there was Leah, the domestic duck, amongst them. 


I peered like a mother watching her child on the playground. My hackles were rising. Would they be mean to her? Would they bully? She was already emotionally vulnerable having lost two companions plucked into thin air by predators. I stood ready to rescue her if I witnessed any funny business. 


Leah seemed oblivious to any contention. She left the water and foraged with the geese on the bank. At times, three or four geese would form a line and move toward her as if herding, or perhaps just "throwing their weight around." Leah was unperturbed. If happiness can be determined through the eye of a scope, she was happy.  


Later in the day, as the geese moved into the water, I walked to the cabin to feed Leah as I did every day. The closer I got to the lake the geese drifted to the other side, and Leah went with them. I got the feed cup, filled it with chop (cracked corn) and shook the cup like I did every day. I called "duck, duck," like I did every day. Leah didn't come. She wouldn't leave the geese.  


This was my dear duck, with whom I had mourned loss over the other ducks, with whom I had sat with day after day and clapped my hands at her antics, whom I had hand-fed from a Harvey's plastic cup. Now she acted as if I was nobody.  


I realized that I was the mother of a teenage duck. One that "ducks" when with her teenage friends and her mother shows up. I felt loss, but at the same time was proud of her independence and proud that she was learning to be a duck -- or maybe a goose. But as all mothers know, the day would come when her teenage friends, maybe even her best friend, would leave her. And there I would be, waiting with a nice cup of chop. 


Predictably, the geese took flight. Leah flapped her wings and stretched high, but she couldn't fly. Now she was all alone again and slowly quacked out that long, lonesome, mournful "q-u-a-c-k." I was there on the bank with my cup of feed, where she slowly and reluctantly returned to me. Only once did she feed from the cup again, for now there were mallards on the lake.  


Leah swims all over the lake; she rests near the grassy stumps in the middle and that's a good thing, for there she will be safe. The geese and the mallards come and go, and every few days I slip to the edge of the lake and leave her a cup of chop.

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.