I stood suspended in air by wooden beams stretching before me like an ancient causeway meant to hold together both earth and water, a ligneous clasp erected such that humans could walk upon the water yet never touch it, and I cradled myself in the embrace of wind heated by fire from the sun. Lapping tongues of liquid life danced beneath me but a stone’s throw from where I stood. A few more steps and indeed I would stand upon the lake’s surface.
Verily, the call of life cried out to me from all directions, a symphony of voices offered forth by creatures great and small, feathered and furred, and I wept silently in the presence of such beauty.
Yet startled I became, given fright by movement so near as to be hidden below me, some earthbound creature buried in shadows deep only a breath away. My eyes tumbled clumsily looking this way and that. A meandering search ensued as they desperately sought what my ears already had found.
Then they appeared. Frighteningly close and unexpectedly disturbed, two meticulously painted avians scurried from beneath the pier upon which my feet rested, the two of them undoubtedly sheltered precisely where I paused yet in a different place, a different world.
Casting a gaze of consternation upon me like a heavy blanket, they waddled precariously over limb and rock and leaf in a struggle to be free of my shadow. I had invaded, upset, and dislodged, all without knowledge of my trespass. But they knew. Ay, they knew full well their hiding place had been assaulted, invaded.
Yet they did not flee alone while together. The brutish force of male dominance yielded almost immediately to the feminine wiles of a companion still but a ghost under the pier’s cover. She too, however, joined them in the brightness of the day, subjecting herself freely to the elements from which they had escaped and felt themselves safe.
Carefully and with much determination, she threaded the spaces between them and moved to the forefront of the advance. Her eyes met mine only briefly, carefully, before she returned her attention to the path laid out before her. While her gentleman callers looked on, she moved on. And they followed.
Unlike her easy waltz through autumn’s debris and the lake’s refuse and unlike her picking here and there in casual search for a tidbit upon which she might feast, the males kept watch of the overly large human standing above them. Their eyes twitched in constant motion.
I felt blame for such an unwelcome intrusion. They had stashed themselves away from the sun, from the wind, from the ruckus of living things busied all around us. And I unbeknownst had troubled them with an annoying incursion. My head fell in shame even as I watched them move away, a parallel with the shore that carried them in a direction I could not follow, one blocked by uneven waves washed upon sediment too wet to support my heavy frame.
I let them go. Had I not already caused enough tension in their lazy morning? Had I not already upset the careful balance they had achieved in their spot beneath the pier?
[mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)]