I ride my bike to work, about a 15 mile round trip ride through Arlington, Cambridge and then into Boston along the Charles River on the Storrow Drive side. It's a lovely ride, especially in the cool mornings before the trail is crowded with runners, bladers, and walkers. I also encounter the occasional urban wildlife: squirrels, mice, chipmunk, ducks, those freaky black cormorants that swim half underwater, two blue herons, and lots of geese. Being late spring, I've especially enjoyed spotting the baby animals that are following Mama Duck and Mama Goose around. They are so quintesentially cute that I can hardly stand it, all fuzzy and small and peeping like cartoon versions of Easter baskets. For a moment or two, I stand there in awe of the scene and then eventually ride off and let the panicked mother goose relax.
I recently noticed a mother goose with her brood of maybe 5 gray goslings toddling along, and bringing up the rear, a lone yellow duckling. What happened? Did Momma Duck disappear? Get hit by an errant roller blader or eaten by a fast-fingered hungry homeless person? How did this duckling find this new family? And can he/she keep up with the geese when they fly south? If she does, will she always have some sort of complex from having grown up as the, er, odd duck? That whole ugly duckling story was suddenly a tableau vivant in front of me, and it brought a queer pang to my heart. I wanted to explain to the little duck that it would all be ok, it would all come out in the wash, not to worry. Sadly, however, I do not speak duck. I could only cluck in sympathy and ride on.
It doesn't take a PhD in psychology to figure out in about two seconds that the pang I was feeling was related to my own story. I'm the odd duck in my family, the black sheep, the weird bird, and my intense sympathy for the little peepers runs more than skin deep. I do wish someone had tried to point me in the right direction when I was floundering and perplexed at my differences. Someone to simply say, "It's ok little one, it will all come out in the wash. You're doing fine." And perhaps some tried, but I was too lost in my own flailings to notice. And I did do fine in the end, or at least I think I've turned out OK so far. So I guess that means I have more than my fair share of desire to connect to others in the same predicament. And I imagine you do too, reader, around the areas of your life where you have struggled. Where today you try to lend a hand even if you don't speak duck. I guess that is what humans do. After all, we're all some kind of black sheep and odd ducks in our own way, trying to figure out where we belong.
So I'll keep an eye on the little peeper if I can, not that I can do much in my twice daily visits to her little family. I'll keep my fingers crossed that she finds her place and her peace in the world.
UPDATE: 6/30/04 I'm still seeing my little friend, whom I named Bonita the Duck for no other reason than calling her that makes me laugh. Lately as I've ridden by on my bike, she is in a grassy area with the other geese, consuming enormous quantities of lawn which seems to be a favorite goose past-time. However, I don't think ducks really do this. It's a little alarming to see this fluffy yellow bird putting so much energy into keeping up with her siblings in eating ... grass. Hm. Future may not look so bright for Bonita the Duck.