Proverbs 12:10 states;
"The righteous person regards the life of his animal."
This statement provides the perfect counterpoint to;
"God is good to all, and God's tender mercies are over all creatures" (Ps. 145:9).
In Judaism, one who is cruel to animals cannot be regarded as a righteous individual. This commonly held ideal is summarized in the Hebrew phrase ts'ar ba-alei chayim, the biblical mandate to not cause pain to any living creature. And while we bi-peds are consistently exerting our dominion over the less formidable, it is our sacred duty to protect, cherish, and reduce their suffering whenever the opportunity arises.
Such has been our month-long encounter with our duck squatter. Removing the nest that Mama Mallard dug into my geranium flower box would have been oh so easy. Destroying the eggs would have required no thought whatsoever. The idea of little ones soiling the backyard and pool area was not one easily swallowed, and several people told me to simply ditch the duck. But, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. You see...I have to at least attempt to live by the premise of not causing undue pain to any living creature. Moving the nest would have been cruel and torturous to the mother. Destroying the life that she created was unthinkable. My guilt overwhelmed me. So instead, we allowed the miracle to play itself out on our deck. And what a miracle it turned out to be!
We interacted with nature in a way that is almost unthinkable here in the suburbs. Our Mama Duck became quite calm in our presence once she knew that we meant neither her nor her eggs harm. She simply understood that we were sharing the space, and we in turn became enraptured by her routine. There wasn't a day that passed that both The Husband and I weren't staring and gaping at this patient and most probably bored mama doing what comes naturally. We were totally captivated.
There also wasn't a day that passed whereby some friend, either in real life or via the connection of social media, didn't enquire as to the health and well-being of our duck. Regular updates became a necessity by virtue of the constant questioning. We embraced the new-found celebrity. We posted pictures, blog posts, videos, and even the odd satire or two. Friends (and friends of friends) were now emotionally invested in the well-being of our mallard. We sought out advice from experts in the subject, and even those authorities kept up with us through regular email and phone call briefings.
This past Monday, I begged The Husband to set up a webcam. We knew that this whole experience was coming close to its end and so many people wanted to be in on the fun. It wasn't an easy venture given the outdated equipment that we had on hand, but my genius was able to make it work and on Tuesday we began sharing our duck with the world. Our timing was perfect. On Wednesday afternoon the magic started. The fledglings began hatching. We were glued to the live-stream and to our backdoor windows watching as one by one little heads, eventually totalling eight, began poking up through Mama's wing feathers. We were live-chatting with friends from across the continent as they joined us in watching our little miracle unfold. We answered questions as best we could, all the while totally engrossed.
Yesterday was the piece de resistance. As daybreak arrived, The Husband urgently summoned me downstairs to watch the little guys literally leap off of the railing and follow Mama into the pool for their first swim.
What followed was an extended comical farce of attempting to help the babies out of the pool. Mama didn't give much thought to that end of the deal. They can't yet fly and are certainly too small to jump out on their own. Watching The Husband, clad only in sweat pants, run around with a skimmer net in the pouring rain trying to help reunite mother and children was priceless, but so in keeping with our credo of ts'ar ba'alei chayim.
And then....just as suddenly as it began, it was over. The ducks moved on to greener areas and murkier waters, probably to the pond a kilometre or so north of us. Last night The Husband remarked that we are now true empty nesters.
We will miss our friends, but I have no doubt, given the migratory and imprinting habits of mallards, that we will see them again.
When James Gandolfini passed away earlier this month, I couldn't stop thinking about the myriad of scenes during the run of The Sopranos in which Tony is either feeding the ducks or just watching them paddle happily in his pool. These creatures continually bring such joy and peace to this extraordinarily tormented character.
Even brutal Tony Soprano understood the balance that needs to exist between humanity and nature.
We have been blessed this month. We know it and we wouldn't have done it any differently. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam
She-kacha lo B'olamo
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe
Who has given us such things in the world.