Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 6695
Age Group: Adult
Posted: September 7th. 2003
"My life has crept so long on a broken wing thro' cells Of madness, haunts of horror and fear that I come To be grateful at last for a little thing." *
The waiting is the hardest part.
Every year, I promise myself that I will not count them. And every year, of course, I do it anyway. Some say that Nature is cruel and if I counted my blessings in ducks, I guess that I would have to agree with them since I'd be down quite a few at this point.
Four ducklings and three adults were lost to predators this year. Since there are soft-shelled turtles the size of hubcaps and two otters (who must tip the scales at twenty pounds each or more) living in and around the Little Pond, this duck depreciation rate is to be expected. Still, since I spend so much time watching my webbed-footed little neighbors, I can't help but feel some small pang of sadness each time that the count tallies in at a few feathers short.
And autumn comes even to Florida. Family Group A -- consisting of four mallard females -- left for parts further south a few days ago. The sole survivor of the late season Group A brood is busy grooming his new flight feathers although he still stays close to his mother. The bonds between the members of the same group seem to be very strong and I know that this mother duck would have left with the rest of her family if the young male had been ready to make the flight. My guess is that these two will be leaving within the week.
Family Group B is made up of two sisters from last year's brood -- these are the same ones who raised their ducklings together -- and one of their offspring although I never could tell which female was the actual mother. Soon, they will feel the strong pull of that same migrational urge. That is the day that I dread.
Because even though there are five ducks out there still, only four of them will be leaving.
One duck has a broken wing.
On a morning in early July, she showed up for breakfast dragging her wing feathers across the grass. I don't know how it happened, but sometime between sundown on one day and sunrise on the next, something snapped. My heart sank and my mind started to do calculations. Should I try to catch her and bring her to a wildlife rehabilitator? Should I leave her and hope that she would heal on her own? I couldn't tell if I should intervene or not. I decided at last to just keep an eye on her. If she appeared to be in obvious pain or if her health began to decline, then I would attempt a rescue.
That was almost two months ago. The duck can still swim well enough and she seems to be in good overall condition. Her sister ducks flank her on both sides at all times seemingly to help compensate for her increased vulnerability. In that, this B group really is a quite remarkable family. They consistently exhibit traits of loyalty and compassion one wouldn't normally expect to see in a non-human setting. (But perhaps we two-leggeds haven't really been paying attention or looking for these either.)
But soon, too soon, the duck with the broken wing will be all alone in the Little Pond and I think that it will be on that day I will finally allow myself to cry.
In my bureau drawer, there is a small bundle of flight feathers. I found them floating on the surface of the Little Pond. The duck had plucked them out knowing somehow that she would never have use for them again. Next to that bundle is a little bag of russet-colored hair. Skye gave me some of her locks last year when she trimmed her hair. That there would be a connection between the two is something that I did not realize until this past Friday. The day that something snapped in my life, too.
The day that Skye told me that the cancer had returned.
After 3 1/2 years in remission, the tumor lurking somewhere deep within my daughter's brain is growing again. Typical of that type of tumor (Grade III Anaplastic Oligoastrocytoma) it will come back in a more aggressive form this time. It will be harder to treat. And there are less options available.
She will be scheduled for gamma knife/proton beam surgery as soon as Mass. General can fit her in. The other therapy will consist of treatments with the recently approved chemo drug, Temodar. After the first series of treatments in 2000-2001, we at least knew that the gamma knife and Temodar would be available in case the benefits from those first treatments eventually failed. "If this doesn't work," we said, "we always have that."
As of Friday, we are now on that and after she's done with that -- medically speaking** -- there is nothing else yet available. And at a whopping $2097.76 per Temodar treatment, she doesn't know how she will afford the extra $400 a month that Medicaid won't cover.
The Little Pond is a remarkably well-balanced mini-eco system. I don't interfere very much since Nature seems to have it pretty much under control. The relationship between predator and prey insures that the visitors at Little Pond will not grow beyond what the resources can sustain. There is a strange comfort to be had in that even as I mourn the loss of an individual duck or two. And as a Pagan I respect the wisdom inherent in a system of such often brutally administered checks and balances.
But I have also seen that there is a small measure of compassion built into the system. Once in a while, a duck survives simply because her family tends to her and protects her even though she is weak or injured. And so, I suppose it will be okay with Mother Nature if I sort of take over as best that I can to help the duck with a broken wing survive after her sisters have gone.
But even if it is not okay, I plan to do it anyway. Because as much as I understand that sometimes bad things do happen to good ducks and that is just the way that it is, I also have this small kernel of angry, rebellious and defiant will that wails at the very notion of such a cruel indifference. It's time to break out the serious mojo.
Because some things, to my way of thinking, are just not fair:
No creature should have to face life's dangers alone; people should not die simply because they cannot afford the drugs that may keep them alive; brain tumors should not grow back...
And anything with wings should at least go down flying.
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, September 8th., 2003
* Alfred Lord Tennyson; Maud
** Skye would very much appreciate your prayers, magickal workings and any other good wishes that you can spare.
photo was captured in Salem Mass. in 1995 by Fritz Jung and features Skye luna (left) and Witchvox Staff member/ good friend Christina Aubin.
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