Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Feeding the Baby Ducklings for Maiden Voyages of their Own

"Consider the trees which allow the birds to perch, and fly away,without either inviting them to stay, or desiring them never to depart. If your heart can be like this, you will be nearer to the way." ~Zen Buddhist Teaching


In the early springtime, before the first crocus has even sprung, My Husband Terry begins his weekend pilgrimage to Worton Creek Marina, to begin preparing the boat for it's maiden springtime voyage. After the tinkering and tending to is through, it's time for our first spring time excursion, our Family Dog leading the way. We've made this same journey since our children were toddlers, but now they are teenagers, not always as eager for family adventures, as we. But, they scurry about the deck, the seasoned mates that they are, awaiting their more than able Captain's guidance, and we motor off to our destination, ready for whatever the Chesapeake has to offer this young spring day.

The air is Crisp with the fragrance of Old Bay Seasoning and Steamed Blue-Claw crabs as we pull into the slip at the Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michael's, Maryland, a favorite port of call. It's leisurely Chesapeake dining at its finest; white paper lined picnic tables with personal paper towel dispensers and wet naps galore; A pitcher of beer and you're well prepared to sit back and watch the boats go by as you pick crabs, and feed the baby ducklings who eagerly await your seasonal arrival.

They're not at all shy, and we happen to be here just as the the mother begins her first lesson of the day: panhandling 101.
Lesson 1: Waddle by and look cute.
She's brought them ashore and they follow her along the edge of the dock where the tables are, ready to receive crackers and bits of crab from folks like us who can't resist. When they've had their fill, it's time for
Lesson 2: Jumping from the dock into the water below.
Without warning, mom lifts off and changes local. The ducklings protest, "cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep!" They pace back and forth, unsure of what to do next, awaiting her able guidance. The mother dips the lower half of her beak in the water and flicks it up towards the ducklings suggesting it's their turn. We all wait with bated breath. It's a good four feet down, and they're all but a few ounces of fluff. They pace and cry some more. She continues to encourage, despite their campaign, gradually getting a little farther away. It's more suspenseful than any soap opera I've seen. The chirping subsides and the ducklings resign, one by one and take their own personal plunge. Everyone sighs.
Lesson 3: Moving On.
Although there is a guaranteed meal here, you must learn to fend for yourselves, to find food of your own.

There are plenty more lessons to be learned before they take a maiden voyage of their own; lots of tinkering and tending to, before they become seasoned mates. But their Captain is able and certain of their potential for independence. Deep down she knows that soon they'll want to stray without her encouragement. Soon they'll be less eager for family adventures, less dependent on parental lessons and more eager to take personal plunges of their own. Personal plunges outside of Saint Michaels;outside of the security of what The Crab Claw can provide: lessons that only the great body of the Chesapeake Bay can teach.
Despite our Campaign,
One young Spring Day they'll motor off to their own destinations, seasoned now and ready for whatever the Chesapeake Bay has to offer,
Prepared to fend for themselves, to find food of their own.

"Today, I am amazed at the things my children have done, and their wide range of interests. They are all living their lives and not the ones I would have planned for them. But I have learned that their lives are theirs, not mine, and in living their own lives, they have given me experience and an education I would never have had if I had been fool enough to make them do what I thought they should do." 
~Bernie Siegal

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