I’m increasingly convinced I don’t know much of anything. I cross the bridge at Johnson Creek to say hello to the mallards, hoping for a blue heron stalking around in the reeds like he was a few weeks back, and what do I see? A new black-and-white gang of ducks with red dabs on their beaks. Spotted and thicker than the resident crew, this is a biker gang of birds. Where do they come from? When did they decide they’d shack up in my neck of the woods? Or have they always been here, floating placidly and a little ominously over their own shadows?
Decisions get made around here in ways I can’t comprehend. There’s a rhythm the Invisible Hand doesn’t seem aware of. An older, deeper magic, as some might say. I find I’m looking up at the sky more these days, all the naked trees shaking in the wind. Not dead, exactly, just dressed down for the season. All the glory and muck of leaves have long since vanished and everyone is sharked back to their most essential bits. Branches curve out in long swopes before terminating at odd angles. The evergreens must love this time of year, rich kids in the ghetto.
What’s happening under all that bark? What lifeblood is secretly creeping its way out to the edges, all the way to the crown of some massive oak? There’re a billion insects creeping around the banks and estuaries of the creek and I can’t see a one of them. I’m tuned in to Big Movement–a sudden splash of wings, wind cleaning my eyes dry, an explosive moment of sunrise before it fades and I forget it ever was. Little Movement, the small clicks of teeth, padded feet in soil I’ll never notice, entire wars fought and won right in front of me, doesn’t register. It gives me pause to know how blind I am. I try to walk more gingerly.
These new punk rock ducks are Muscovys. Bred for eating, they tend to get loose and go feral. Perhaps that’s what’s happened here–refugees from some other, duck-related conflict they’re seeking asylum here on our placid little stretch of water. Who isn’t seeking some kind of shelter these days? I like them, their angry haircuts, their flotilla arrangement. I hope they fit in. I tell them so, leaning over the railing. They ignore me, as any angsty teen worth their salt will.
I head back home in the flat stretch of late morning. No wind. The clouds are layered dark to light today, buckling but not quite shearing off as they often do. The sun will come, or perhaps rain. One way or another, there’ll be a breaking-in, a tear-up of the briefly established order for something other. The ants we’ve had for weeks will march their way into the house, unabated. Today maybe I’ll just watch, see them work and wonder at how exactly they managed to find their way in and where it is they’re going. The ducks, the lot of them made of oil-pressed feathers, will float on.