I begin my journey to work every day looking for wildlife. I feel reassured and have a sense of hope about the world and the survival of the planet if I see wildlife on the way to work. Once I saw a spoonbill on the Birkdale roundabout and I was thrilled at the braveness and audacity of him having breakfast right outside of Woollies.
There are a few places I regularly scan. My street, I always look for koalas although I see them less and less now. The roundabout to Wynnum dips slightly to a hollow at the curve of the road and here I look for ducks. There is a small pool of mud and water with some purple lily pads and sometimes, ducks. Over the bridge at Tingalpa I look for herons and early morning kayakers. It’s only a glance ,Mum, I always have my eyes on the road. The other place is deep down on Rickertts road and just as I am losing my patience with the long line of traffic I can cast my eyes across the swamp that was recently dredged and I check for ducks.
Something about the shape of a duck makes me happy. The sheer un-aerodynamic-ness of them, the rounded tummy and blunted beak perfect for scruffling around in mud. The way they are rounded for buoyancy but somehow don’t look sleek enough to fly. When I see them in flight in a line it always makes me smile, the sight of their rounded fat bellies demonstrates to me that anything is possible. Flying ducks give me hope, swimming, splashing ducks and seeing little duck tails waggling in the air just makes me plain happy.
A few weeks ago I was trying to describe to my husband the exact juncture in the road that was underwater due to a cyclone and extreme weather. I told him it was underwater at the roundabout where the ducks are. He looked at me quizzically. He needed more detail. He notices signs, road names, cross streets, I had nothing. Just ducks. I look for living things.
The other day I had a great start to the day, I’d been for an early morning run, seen a male moor hen in the wetland creek behind my street standing proud in the long grass, gleaming a glorious blue, but the red downward curve of his beak made him look arrogant. He was beautiful, but not amusing. I got ready for work, gathered children into the car and off to school, turned down the road to work and as I glanced left I saw it. Three ducks! What a blessing! A three duck day! I knew I could stop looking now, civilisation was assured the planet could continue, among all this progress and development there was still a beating pulse of life. A three duck day = happy.
I continued driving along, smiling, today is a good day I kept thinking, a three duck day, not quite a fist pump but a spreading warmth and secret smile. I glanced across Tingalpa creek as I made the crossing into Brisbane, no herons, no kayaks. I’m still riding the happiness of a three duck day.
As I turn towards Manly, the car in front of me slows and breaks, I’m confused, there are no traffic lights here or a right hand turn, it’s a straight strip. I wait. Then I see them. On the side of the road is a brown mother duck with 6 or 7 little ducklings, a fluffy blur of wings and beaks and little black feet. They are all panicking following her startled movements back and forth on to the road, then off, the ducklings are fluttery and uncertain. I stop and watch them willing them on, the driver on the other side of the road also slows to a stop. “Go little ducksters!” I cheer. We wait until mother duck feels confident and safe and she ushers her little brown family across the busy road. Traffic in both directions has halted and the drivers watch together. We are all smiling at the cuteness of it. I am warmed by the sudden collective humanity and human kindness.
I realise the capacity that animals have to create universal happiness. I forgive people for being greedy and obsessed with consumerism and commercial growth. I see their kindness and feel uplifted and grateful. It’s not exactly an epiphany but a beautiful slow moment in my busy day where I can pause and really experience life.
Days later, travelling the same road into the city, with my family, I pass the bend in the road where the duck family crossed and I remember and tell my girls about it. They make the sounds little girls make when something is adorable. I watch my husband’s face and I see him smile. It’s a good day.