When I return from the restaurant at the end of the day, one of my first tasks to change into home clothes, step into muck boots and head out with the dog toward the chicken house.
Coop gives a soft, Woof and I call, "Hey, chick chick ." Our longhorns and layers come scampering from all directions; leaving behind their endless search for vines and flowers and bugs. Clucking to one another as they run, they anxiously look for the deli container I invariably bring; brimming with choice bits of apple core, carrot peelings, tomato stems, heels of bread and the occasional corn cob or melon rind. They peck and fret, squabbling, tugging over the best bits, balancing on my boots to get a higher vantage of the feast. It's a noisy picnic.
Listen carefully over the clatter of the hens and you'll hear Mrs. Duck echoing her own reply from down on the pond. She quickly paddles to the edge then navigates the steep bank of rocks and reeds, making her way to the lawn. It's a long walk up the hill. She is watchful and cautious knowing that the hens have seniority. Mrs. Duck has experienced the "Pecking order."
I quietly scoop a cup of dried corn from the bucket, hoping not to distract the chickens from their eating frenzy. Mrs. Duck and I will head to the front porch where her bowl of water waits. I'll sit for a bit and she will gulp corn, washing down every bite with a long swallow of water. Eventually, I must leave to go inside while she lingers looking in through the glass door. I look at her silly old beak, dotted with crumbs of corn, her wide black eyes , bright blue and brown feathers; wishing I had more to offer. Eventually, she'll offer a Quack Quack Quack good bye and flap her way back to the pond.
Earlier, when the weather was warm, Duck choose our house for her nesting place. Down beside the house foundation, deep in the ivy, she began plucking feathers from her breast, forming a beautiful soft circle for the twelve eggs she would lay, one egg, one day at a time. Each egg was neatly hidden below layers of down, as duck left for food and returned to lay. In the days to follow, she took up vigil, waiting for the tiny sounds of life, little peeping from inside the shells. Mrs. Duck would slightly raise her head and speak to her ducklings; an instinctual effort to familiarize them with her own voice in hopes they would follow and respond to her lead? Did she remember the adopted brood of ducklings we had nurtured for her; the ones who, in spite of her coaxing and cajoling, would not remain under her wing of protection?
Unfortunately, Duck's eggs would not respond nor would they hatch. Eventually, duck left her nest and returned to the pond. No doubt, she will build a new nest next Spring and lay again. It is in her God given nature to hope and plan for the best outcome.
This season left us with lessons on love and perseverance. .
The draw of our nurturing voice, the call to love through both protection and freedom and the perseverance of hope.
Night falls the chickens have voluntarily taken their places in the hen house with doors safely bolted for the night. Mrs. Duck is nestled inside her floating house in pond central, beak tucked snugly under her wing. The deer are out calmly feeding.
We rest giving thanks for all creatures great and small and wisdom we gain from God's great creation.