by Nina D’Andrea
For many months, a Muscovy duck couple has visited my yard day in and day out without fail. They come to feast on cracked corn and bread. Once full, they leave together. Always together. Inseparable. I have observed and even remarked to myself about the male duck’s protective behavior towards the female. He was constantly on alert for predators that might harm his mate.
On Easter Sunday morning, the female duck appeared in my yard alone. I had a feeling that she was upset and maybe even a bit frantic which was quite a departure from her otherwise calm behavior. I greeted her with her usual treat of cracked corn and bread. Once full, she departed for the lake. At dusk she returned again, alone. My sixth sense knew something was awry. Her constant companion was nowhere in sight. Always together. Inseparable. Again she appeared frantic; darting around the yard looking for her mate. She finally gave up and flew off to some secret sanctuary for the night.
She appeared again on Monday morning, alone. That gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach persisted as I realized that her constant companion for the past months was probably gone – never to return. I greeted her with the usual daily sustenance. She ate quickly and left for the lake. I watched for many hours as she swam up and down, up and down – searching. Later that evening my neighbors confirmed what my sixth sense had been telling me for two days – her mate was dead. Earlier that day they had found the male duck floating in the lake.
Several weeks have passed since the loss of her mate and the sweet female duck still returns to my yard each morning – alone. She feasts on cracked corn and bread. However, instead of searching the lake, she lies down under my tree to rest or catch a nap for a few hours. While she is resting, I often sit a few feet from her and talk. I share the sorrow, anguish and loneliness in my heart about the difficulties of losing a mate, often wondering and hoping if he will return home at any moment. We were also always together. Inseparable.
Over the many months of my journey through grief, I have somehow drawn comfort from the daily visits of the ducks. Always predictable. Always together. Inseparable. Her daily visits now remind me that life goes on regardless of my own loss. My intuition tells me that she understands what I am feeling. We bring comfort to one another in an odd sort of way. We are forever kindred spirits on the journey through grief. Even ducks grieve!