DUCK TIME

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We consider the ducks on the lake to be our friends. They have been stopping off on some rocks near our dock for years. We have enjoyed watching them fish, preen, and socialize before heading out to other ports. Then after hurricane Sandy a large log from a felled tree floated across the lake and hovered near our absent neighbor’s shore all spring. The log became known as the Duck RV, and it allowed us to have an even nicer relationship with the ducks. They met and congregated on the log at various points during the day before settling down in a line for nighttime. The log had become their home. This arrangement worked well until the Duck RV moved again.

Each day the Duck RV inched closer to our dock. It was difficult to swim around because of unseen branches that stretched out from the log beneath the water’s surface. Our swimming water became littered with small downy duck feathers. The stench from the duck feces coating the log was wafting into our air. The Duck RV had to go!

With my husband Rob at the oars and me in the water pushing from the back of the boat, we heaved the log further down the lake and deposited it into a niche of uninhabited lakefront.

But just like humans, ducks are creatures of habit. And that night while eating our supper on the upper deck I looked down at the darkened water and asked, “What is that?”

Dozens of motionless blobs were floating in front of our dock.

“Ducks?” my daughter asked.

Rob peered down. “I think it’s a duck armada.”

I ran to get the binoculars.

“What are they doing?”

“It looks like they’re sleeping,” he said.

“Ducks don’t sleep floating in the water.”

“How do you know?”

“Don’t you remember Make Way For Ducklings?” I said. “When ducks find a home they want to keep it.”

“I think they’re angry,” Rob said.

“They don’t look angry. Some of them have their heads tucked in. ”

Time passed and we grew tired watching the homeless ducks and went to bed. I got up in the night for water and the ducks were still there, waiting. Waiting for something that had once been available and now in an instant wasn’t. At least that’s how it must have felt in duck time. It seemed as if they were holding their ground, moving only as far as the current pushed them along. We cared about the ducks but we just didn’t want to share our small stretch of waterfront with them.

A few days later the ducks had happily discovered their RV’s new home. The sad part is that we can’t watch them anymore. Sort of like our own children going to college and then moving away from home.

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LOST AT SEA

I set a goal at the beginning of the summer to swim across the lake every day. You might think that with all this hot, hot weather, this would prove to be a snap. So far I’ve made it about half the time. Trouble is, too much hot weather makes the lake too warm and it ceases to be inviting. This hasn’t happened since 2002 when slipping into the water really did feel like a bathtub. The good news is that a heavy rain will alter the temperature back to normal levels, and we had rain yesterday and today.

Swimming without a lane across an expanse of water alters your perception of where you are in the universe. You can try counting strokes to measure your progress or you can simply lose yourself in the cadence of the swim. If you fail to look up from time to time you can find yourself far off course. Once you prop your goggles on top of your head and collect your bearings you immediately have to push the distance out of your mind or you’ll drown just thinking about it. If fatigue sets in, which it always does with me on the return trip, you simply flip over on your back and float. My mother taught me this when I was a young, struggling swimmer.

“If you get tired float on your back,” she instructed.

“And do what?”

“Rest.”

“Rest?” I asked. “Rest in the water?”

“Of course.”

It seemed odd. Then I found out almost every swimmer knew this trick. There is absolutely no better way to de-stress. Find a lake, swim to the very middle, flip over on your back and stare up at the clouds.  Keep your hands fluttering occasionally so you don’t sink and then let everything melt away. Try to watch a least one cloud dissolve before you swim back.  You will return a different person. Just setting off from the dock to be alone on the planet will begin to lower your blood pressure.

When my daughter was in the fifth grade and eager to swim across the lake, I agreed on the condition we stop halfway over and float. This had the added bonus of allowing me to take a break from watching her swim.

“What do we think about?” she asked when we arrived near the center and we were treading water in a bicycle motion.

“Nothing.”

“Oh,” she said, seemingly unsatisfied.

“You think about how the earth is supporting you.”

“How nice,” she said.