Dan O’Connor: The ducks are back

White crystals of water molecules are glittering in the morning sunlight. As I look out my window, I see that it snowed last night. It was a light snowfall, but it changed our landscape to a soft and beautiful white world. No wonder I felt a chill in the night. Mother Nature threw a light cold blanket over the land. But its gentle softness won’t last long in the morning sun and afternoon warmth. Shortly it will be gone, leaving only a few white patches to be seen in the distant hills.

Winter may soon be just a memory. This is our third and perhaps final snow of the year. Little birdies chirp outside my window these days. You can feel spring gently approaching.

The ducks are back. At least two families of ducks have returned. I saw them over the past couple of days as I rode my bike around the pathway that circles town. At first I heard quacks in the distance. Then there was a frantic flapping of wings as they propelled their dark bodies above the riverbed. Their beaked heads stretched out from their long, pretty necks. I heard noisy angry squawks at the intrusion of a human in their personal space.

All the deer who have been roaming around town have gone away, it seems. Up until recently I would catch glimpses of some remaining deer families. They would hang around homes where they had been fed by admiring humans. They are similar to stray cats in that respect. But now, in my travels, I see no more deer.

The buds on the cottonwood trees are trying to poke their little heads out into daylight. As the nights grow shorter, the days extend their brightness longer and are more mild. Soon our landscape will be colored by bright green leaves. Sprinkled all through them will be the beautiful flowers of spring.

Did you ever wonder who teaches roosters to crow, birds to sing and dogs to bark at strange sounds in the night? You may well say that ducks, like fish, don’t need swimming lessons. Birds instinctively know how to migrate. That just comes naturally to them. And of course you’re right.

The oddity, it seems to me, is why these simple natural traits and abilities don’t apply to the same extent with humans. It did apply more so all through our history when life was simple. Agrarian and nomadic societies lived, struggled and survived for thousands of years close to the land before the arrival of the machine.

Maybe it was the discovery of oil and the realization of how it could produce cheap energy to completely modernize our world. Maybe it was the building of large cities to house and shelter masses of humans in close proximity. Maybe it was the development of powerful destructive weapons capable of conquering other lands and driving their people into fear and terror. But there was a point there in our history when something really major changed.

Progress, advancement and comfort, it’s called. Electricity, central heating and indoor plumbing are everywhere in this modern world of ours. There’s instant worldwide communication available. There are more channels of TV broadcast in one day than you can watch in one lifetime. Somehow, though, it all seems hollow, superficial and plastic.

Although we live and work in our synthetically constructed environments, we are still not totally separated from our natural roots. We hide from them in our autos, planes and condos. But whenever we visit the seashore or walk through the hills and among the trees, we hear them call to us like old long lost friends.

Could this, I wonder, have something to do with how I feel when I get out in nature? Are ancient memories of man being stirred with the coming of spring? Is it a recognition of the age-old cycle of rebirth — the never ending urge of life force to continue, survive and flourish?

Does this in some way explain the great joy I feel when I see that the ducks are back?

Dan O’Connor can be reached at danhughoconnor@gmail.com.


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