Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finding One's Flock

Canadian Geese taking off near Lakeview, Oregon
Once upon a time, there was a duck. He was your basic, no frills, no thrills and chills, flies south for the winter kind of duck. He lived, during the summer months, on a pond that was bounded on the north by a trail where people walked their dogs, jogged, or rode bicycles, and along its north side ran a happy little stream. Cottonwoods grew on both banks, and the duck thought they lent a quaint pastoral quality to the scene, rather like the opening bars of Beethoven's Sixth. Besides, he liked the shade.

The dogs he didn't mind, despite their proficiency at barking when they saw him. The Labradors were the most entertaining, he thought, when they leaped into the pond trying to catch him by surprise. He'd simply fly off and circle overhead, imagining himself a bomber pilot, taking aim with a well-placed plop! Then he'd land and resume paddling around as if nothing unusual had happened. It was a good life and he had few complaints that he considered worth mentioning.

There's one, however, I think we should mention, even if he wouldn't. You see, unlike most ducks, he had a secret life. I mean, how many Mallards or Mandarins have you met who are familiar with Beethoven? Not many, I'll warrant. But this fellow was and he also enjoyed Handel and Bach. I never got around to asking him where he obtained his classical education and he was so modest, he never told me himself. What he did tell me was how odd it made him feel and how solitary his life was, as a result.

Apparently, conversation at the pond, when other flock members dropped down for a chat, revolved around the weather or who was nesting with whom. Pretty much the same kinds of things people discuss at lunch. He would have liked to introduce a topic with more depth but the closest he could come was how far below the surface the best fish were to be found. It was frustrating at best, and naturally, he couldn't be seen fraternizing with a human -- tales of Elmer Fudd and Daffy are the stuff of legend -- so our conversations had to occur on the sly.

This story might have had a melancholy ending except for the fact that one day a couple of Canadian Geese happened by. We were so engrossed in discussion we didn't notice them until they landed practically on top of us, sending water flying in nearly every direction. "That was Homeric, eh?" cried one, "I'd like to see Achilles do it better, eh?"

The duck and I looked at one another in amazement. "Sounds like your kind of people," I said. He nodded and swam over to introduce himself, said something about the Odyssey, and the conversation literally took flight. It was fascinating to watch their friendship develop over the remainder of the summer but I felt apprehensive with the approach of winter. Turns out, I had no reason. Since Canadian Geese are year-round Colorado residents, they adopted my friend. He may look like a duck on the outside, they said, but inside, he's all goose. Truer words have rarely been spoken.

It reminds me of medical school, and how, sometimes, you discover your true flock isn't the one you were born into, but the one you find when you're least expecting it.
(Image of unknown license via Wikipedia)

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