Dec 15, 2015

Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders
Black on black is not easy to see, but there she is - while some of the others look up at the aerial display.
It felt like an omen and a confirmation of something deep and spiritual.

Even though I am not one to quickly say, “everything happens for a reason,” or to subscribe to meanings behind seeing rare natural occurrences, I was stopped in my tracks this late morning.

The ducks were out – Coffees in the front fenced yard, Runners et al in the Tea Garden. I was happily shoveling what will be the base of the new Day Pen for the ducks – it needs very large (as in, at least 300 pounds each) stones moved, and a fair amount of soil redistributed to make the area a bit more level. I was addressing the soil component, and decided I would ask for help from someone younger and stronger to move those boulders. It was a balmy morning, in the 50’s Farenheit. The sun was shining. This is a day of grace here in New England, less than ten days before the Winter Solstice.

I usually keep an ear to the sky – hawks are known to take a dive at ducks and even carry them away in some parts of the world. One of the early warning signals is of crows mobbing. That always makes me look up.

This morning, I heard more than just crows, though. First, it was more crows than I often see going after a hawk. It was at least a dozen. And among those crow-caws I heard . . . ravens? I was sure of it and at the same time, tried talking myself into doubting myself. Ravens? Here?

But these were not caws, they were lower and louder and more complex, sounding more like words, and the birds were much larger than the crows, with different profiles. There were two or three hawks – it was difficult to sort out because not only was there much motion in the sky, I was hustling to be sure everyduck was under cover. Once I made sure of that, I turned my attention skyward and watched as the hawks flew off, pursued by the group of large and larger black birds. The mix of crow and raven cries was unmistakable as it faded into the distance, following the flight northward of the hawks.

Here is a link to a page that compares crows and ravens.

There was something holy in those moments – all that winged motion overhead, the unusual character of the situation – so many birds in flight, so much cacophony, such unlikely visitors. Even the hawks looked very large and different. They may have been migrating through, a species we rarely see around here. I did not have time or brainspace to make an identification, and they were moving quickly.

I watched the flight of the hawks as they headed up the valley, crows and ravens in pursuit. Then I turned to look into the duck pen.

I beheld yet another first! Our tiny Black East Indies adoptee had hopped into the swim pan and was floating on the water, happily splashing and preening.

Now, the sight of a duck enjoying herself in a tub of water is hardly unusual, especially around here. But she came to us a few months ago with some history. That history included not having spent time in water, at least not in a long, long time if ever. And her feathers showed it. The first time she hopped into a small swim pan, she sank like a rock and her feathers soaked up water. She had to be taken out and dried off. Of course as soon as she was set down, she jumped right back into the water!

In the warm weather that was not too terrible, but we knew the little one would be at risk of drowning or hypothermia if she were to get into a container too deep for her to easily get out of. So for months, part of her care included making sure there was a ramp in the swim pan that she could climb and perch on in the unlikely event she could scale the edge of the pan to begin with. It is eye height on her – very unlikely she could get in, but with what I know from ducks experientially, I took no chances.

And so it went, for four solid months. She was given a shallow bucket to splash in, and watched closely for any signs of chilling. Each week her feathers were noticeably more water-resistant, the rich black color deepening, and the jewel-like shimmers of purple and green more breathtaking. The high-quality food and access to fresh water was working well. And not once did she show any interest in the big swim pan aside from sipping water at the edge, on her tiptoes.

But there she was, this morning. She had jumped in while I was watching the aerial display. Perhaps she even flapped her wings to get aloft enough to clear the top of the swim pan.

Instead of soaking and sinking, her feathers buoyed her atop the water as she dove, slapped her wings on the water, shook, wiggled, and splashed water all around the swim pan. Most of the flock was nearby, some drinking at the pan’s edge.

As ducks will do, someone gave the signal and the flock suddenly walked over to a different spot in the garden, leaving the little B.E.I. to herself. She looked around, as if to find the exit ramp. But there was none, as the Tea Garden is a temporary pen area.

Moments later, she hopped out, making a perfect two-point landing, and happily trotted over to join the flock.

These precious windows into what had seemed very unlikely if not impossible have a holy feeling to them, for me. I was touched with the sensation that perhaps at least some of my cherished dreams may not have to be let go.