Today while taking a turn around the lake in Laura’s yellow-orange kayak, I confirmed that the duck I had seen yesterday lying on its side unmoving, was indeed dead. She was still there, quiet and undisturbed since the day before, only this time a young adult was sitting next to her. It was a poignant sight. Yesterday it was simply a dead duck laying on the shore, but now she was a mother, with a family nearby. I wondered if there were any more nearby.
As I drew my little craft closer, careful with the paddle not to make a sound and speaking a soft greeting, I noticed the adolescent bending down to nip at its mother in various places. Was he trying to wake her up? Or is this the way a baby mourns the loss of its mother in the animal world?
He was settled closely against her side, and I wondered what those blank staring eyes looked like from his vantage point. I was touched by his filial piety, choosing to stay and guard his mother rather than just run away. Wasn’t the sight of her lifeless body frightening? I came closer. And then I saw what he was snapping at and it made sense. The flies. They were tasty, and plentiful. She was still feeding her baby, even after her body could no longer.
“I’ll be back,” I told him, as if he would still be there tomorrow. I said my farewells, and paddled on, breathing in the windy sunlit day while I still can.