One lovely afternoon I was strolling by the fountain-pool in our municipal rose garden. It is often filled with ducks and their ducklings in spring. But on this day there was just one mama duck, with only one duckling. I was instantly sad. I usually saw mother ducks trailed by five or six ducklings, or many more. What catastrophe, I wondered, had struck at her family? I assumed she had given birth to more than one. Perhaps a city-critter like a raccoon or a skunk, maybe even a family of them, went on a night raid in the park. Maybe a cat or loose dog had come upon them. Maybe a gardener unwittingly sprayed their sleeping place with pesticides. I speculated endlessly. My gloomy side had kicked in. However it happened, my heart was broken by this mother who it seemed had suffered great loss.
But perhaps, after all, she was not as troubled as I by her lost ducklings. To a wild animal, life is what it is. It’s very possible she was fulfilled by the one duckling left to her to love and protect and teach and care for. She doted, fussed, stayed close to it, and herded it back by the pool when it climbed out on the “duckling board” fastened to the pool edge. Maybe she didn’t define the quality of motherhood by the number of young left to her to care for. She just calmly and lovingly mothered the one she had, putting her whole being into it. I doubt she went around comparing reality to happy ideal scenarios like I do. She has a lot to teach me.