|The tall thin Indian Runner was killed; the fat Aylesbury mourns|
Climbing out of our pond
When I was a child, I had a huge, fat bunny, two hens, two ducks and a dog. We had a large house with an acre around it.
When we bought a house in the English countryside in 2006, one of the first things I did was get two hens, two ducks, two rabbits and a dog. I bought a large house with an acre and a half around it.
Yeah, unconsciously recreating my childhood which sort of ended when I was sent to boarding school when I was nine. When my mother sent pressed flowers from whatever was in bloom, mulberries, mustard…I cried, and I cried when we left that garden when I was 14 for a flat which came with my father’s post-retirement job. Oddly, I seemed to have missed the garden and its inhabitants more than my family!!
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Well, Oxfordshire has perils that Jamshedpur, India did not: foxes.
A fox ate one of our chickens, and the survivor was so traumatised that we gave it away. No more chickens.
The fox kept coming for our ducks—I looked out one evening to see a white duck seemingly levitating in a fox’s jaw. It dragged one away at 11 a.m. and though Roy chased the fox and rescued the duck, it died of shock. Another was mauled once by the fox, nursed by us, but then mauled again, and put down by the vet.
So we gave up on ducks for a while. But, oh, it was an idyllic picture to see them cluck around our yard. Ducks are the dearest birds, always happy, always cheerful, running to see you in a manic, quacking way!!
So after a duckless year or two after the maulings, we got ducks again, vowing to be very careful and put them away before dusk.
* * *
And then one day, we forget. When we remembered, and searched for them, one was killed by the fox.
The other duck was traumatised, and has spent a day and a half quacking for her friend. Ducks don’t search for a friend; they quack till the friend quacks back.
Unable to stand this desperate, agitated quacking, we have released her—well, put her on a lovely public duck pond on a river in a park, where we can go and see her. She took to it like, well, a duck to water.
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I love ducks, I love watching them run and cluck and quack and eat and live so happily. But it’s really not safe having ducks out in the country—the fox comes even in the day, especially at dusk, and there are always the odd occasions when one forgets to put them away. Though I support Tony Blair’s hunting ban, and feel sorry for the mangy, terrified foxes I often see on my walks, I also hate them for their habit of killing for the sake of it.
I must admit I cried a little. I was very fond of my ducks.
When Job faced far, far more bitter losses, he said, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away. Blessed by the name of the Lord.”
In the case of Job’s devastating loss of his children, there was no bright side.
In our case, there is. No unsightly duck house and run in our back garden. Ducks are messy critters, their droppings are unsightly, their splashing in their bathtubs we gave them destroyed the lawn. They quack to be let out of their house in the mornings, waking us up. There is a constant stress about remembering to put them away: Many a family dinner has been paused while someone runs out to herd the ducks! And their food attracts garden rats. Yeah, Ratty and Mole, not great friends of the garden.
So give up the dream and idyll of ducks quacking in my garden?? I feel sad to think of it—but yeah, I guess so. I guess having free-range chicken and ducks in fox country is a recipe for stress and failure.
At some point, one just has to accept the life one has and not the idyll we dream of. Foxes are a fact of life if you live in the country, and we will have to give up the dream of free-range poultry, or just-laid-that-morning eggs.
* * *
I adore the ocean, and often dream of living by the sea. But I have lived in Oxford for a total of 14 years. I have many friends I am fond of here, many friends on whose shoulder I could cry (and vice-versa!). I do not have the energy to move, and start again with friendships which, for me, are a vital part of life. So, maybe a small beach cottage if God provides the money, but no more moves. I am living in my dream house, and so I am going to abandon dreams of something dreamier to focus on my work.
* * *
Ah, mid-life, the restless season, mimicking our twenties in many ways. In my women’s group, almost every fortnight, someone tells of their friends or family divorcing.
Mid-life: it’s a Reality Show. You realise that barring the intervention of God (and of course, that’s an immense thing to bar) your spouse is unlikely to change. What you see is what you get. WYSIWYG. So you bail–or you accept, or you pray mightily; Roy and I are going for the last two options.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination. —They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963) (20 December 1943).
I am tired, and sad, and mourning my duck, and the prospect of a duckless life.
But, in fact, this is my life, and I love it most days, and I will rejoice and be glad in it, in all the many things God has given me. Blessed be His Name!
|Our Aylesbury and Indian Runner duck resting in the snow with beaks tucked under their wings.|
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