Friday, May 25, 2012
Where his eyes are
They were ducklings. I'm not making this up. In my window well, at our house, in the middle of town--ducklings! Six of them, squacking and peeping like a barrel of store-bought chicks this time of year--a window well full of furry little sweethearts, trapped, each of them trying vainly to run up the screen to get out. It was high drama right here in the inner city of Sioux Center, Iowa.
Honestly, I didn't recognize them. All I knew is they were raising holy fury with their incessant chirping, enough so that, even with my arms full of boxes, I detoured down the sidewalk when I heard them, looked up--they were birds after all--saw nothing, then looked down at the bedlam. Sure enough--six little darlings, stripes behind their eyes, wings flapping for fair, scared nearly to death to be in our window well.
You think of mercy right then because you think of death. There's a black cat in the neighborhood--we love cats, love having them around. But these guys were little more than a light lunch.
I fetched my wife. She's the one who said they were ducks.
"Ducks?" I said. "What on earth are they doing here in our window well?--and what on earth are we going to do?"
I ran inside and tried to call my ornithologist friend--no one home--then went back outside, hoping maybe they'd escaped prison. That's when I glimpsed Mom and a half-dozen more of the kids right there at the window well. She took off as if I were the black cat. My wife was right. They were ducklings, of all things, right here in town, no more water around than a sidewalk puddle.
I called the county naturalist, told her I had a weird question. She said it wasn't weird at all, that it was simply that time of year when mother wood ducks stood beneath trees where they'd kept nests and made her little ones (12 or 15, she said) take what might have seemed a suicidal leap they normally--believe it or not--come out of alive. The plot thickens because then they find themselves on the ground where black cats creep about seeking whom they may devour.
"Just get 'em out of there," the naturalist told me. "Don't handle 'em too long either, but get 'em out so they don't scatter too far."
Back outside we went. I grabbed the little tykes, one at a time and handed them off to my wife who let 'em go, under the deck where Mom and the rest of the chillins' had fluttered. With a great flurry of pin feathers, they got themselves reunited, and we saw most of that swarming little family waddle through the grass to get under the cover of the big pine, a whole pre-school of ducklings, one happy family.
Absolutely darling, as cute as anything we've seen in the yard since popsickled grandkids. And I felt like a naturalist, a Thoreau miles and miles from Walden Pond.
Still, there's that black cat, who last year had her own family to feed. A mother wood duck, middle of town, on the ground, no stream or lake in sight, leading a brood the size of a country school--I couldn't help but imagine the worst.
But the naturalist says it happens every year, nature's own ritual. Last spring, she says, one young wood duck family walked right through a store in Hawarden, a perfect train of ducklings. Her story, not mine. But after a half-dozen in my window well, I'm a believer.
Still. It's scary.
But then I know He's watching. I've got Ethel Waters' near-baritone contralto imprinted for all time in my soul--"his eye is on the sparrow," she'd sing at a Graham crusade, and besides scripture doesn't lie. Okay, he's got the sparrows covered, but it doesn't say a thing about legion of wood duck ducklings in the middle of town. And besides, with all the world's sparrows, He's got to be incredibly busy.
A half continent away, a good friend is losing his wife, slowly and very painfully--his mate, his friend, his lover. Our yard's dozen ducklings seem little more than Disney.
But just imagine. His eye on the sparrow, and the ducklings, and a gadzillion other creatures, humanoids, too, all of us, especially when some of us are in window-well prisons we simply can't escape.
It's a wonder all right, and it's a good thing he's God. His eyes are on the ducklings. And the black cat. And, if we are to believe his word, all of us.
All of us. Amazing. Grace.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:05 AM