Do you want to see duck puppies? I ask, scooping my niece up in my arms and jogging down the drive with her bouncing and giggling. I take her to the pond below her house. Unfortunately, the "duck puppies" are hiding amidst the cattails, but I spy them later when I return on my own. It is the season for avian births, I guess, because I have stumbled upon two happy families this week. First, when I visited a local pond to show my nephew a good fishing spot and then today at my niece Ellie's.
I have returned three times to watch the Canadian geese and their clan of seven goslings. The parents stand watch over them so diligently, the babies sticking close to the mama. One gets brave and waddles down to the shore and Mama eventually goes in after him, the other six in tow. She gathers them back on shore, but when they become weary of watching me, the parents finally move them, forming a single-file line across the water.
The duck's behavior is similar, but there is no papa around. Mama is a single lady in this scenario, but she keeps her brood just as close. I spy them again as I stand at the water's edge photographing flowers. Suddenly there is a splash beneath me and the bank flutters threatening to toss me in the water. Instead, I catch my balance just in time to raise my camera and capture a picture of the moving huddle of ducks, which had been camped out in the weeds beneath me. Mama transplants them to a safer venue and soon they are a brown blotch against the weeds.
Families can be complicated, relations strained as children grow older and seek independence. These happy tribes have not reached that point yet; nature will take its course in due time. Right now they are true units, working as one. I visit and soak in their happy energy. Whether it be ducks. humans or puppies, I am drawn to the notion of tribes, the allure of babies and the magic inherent in those first steps of discovery. I wish I could bottle it all. I wish I could claim it for my own.