It has been said that a duck looks calm above the water, but is paddling like heck underwater to stay afloat.
I’ve learned that this is simply not true.
Ducks only paddle to change direction, or to move forward.
Ducks have a gland at the base of their tails that secretes an oil that they spread on their feathers to keep from sinking. The waterfowl will frequently tuck their head and bill to help sleek the oil over their plumage to remain above the surface.
But sometimes, the oil gland gets plugged. Stress or trauma can be one reason. It is suggested that to help ease the stress, that the duck might need a reprieve, some down time from others to recover.
Northwest River, Chesapeake, VA
I thought a lot about ducks while kayaking on the Northwest River in Chesapeake, Virginia. As I came around a bend, wood ducks would flap up out of the water, startled by my approach. The river was covered in duckweed, a protein that wood ducks will eat, and serves an important role in the healthy ecosystem of the river.
I thought about how, like ducks, we need to take care of ourselves every day to stay afloat. And, that if we’ve experienced pain, grief or anxiety, sometimes we need quiet time to recover.
(And sometimes, like when we see a snake along the shore, we take a moment to take it in, snap a shot, then paddle the hell out of there.)
My husband Brad and I had planned our next adventure, six months in our motorhome, ever since we bought it last February. Brad has less tolerance for winter, and I’m always game to travel, so we began plotting our trip.
Sadly, I lost my oldest brother, Kevin, just a month before we were to leave. I know he would not have wanted us to alter our intentions, in fact, just the opposite.
After gathering with my awesome brothers and their wives, Jeff and Cindy, Greg and Lisa, Gordie and Debbie, along with Kevin’s wife, Bobbie, to celebrate Kevin’s life, Brad and I took off.
But, like those ducks, I realized I needed to take care of myself to keep my head above the surface. I needed peace and quiet to restore my soul. Our first stop, the Rubini family homestead in Tryon, North Carolina, offered just that. Plus bonus time with our daughter Kyle and our grandpup, Riggins, and our dear friends, Susan and Pam.
Sunset in North Carolina
Our daughter Kyle snuggling with Riggins and Luna
Pam (l.) and Susan at the creek below Chimney Rock.
Every day I preened my feathers, doing what I could to take care of myself. Hikes, picnics at waterfalls, glasses of wine at sunset, fun rounds of golf, writing, reflecting. Slowly I felt myself rising to the surface once again.
And then, like those ducks, I dug my paddles into the water and moved forward.
From North Carolina we ventured to the Cheseapeake area. Along with kayaking, we explored Williamsburg and spent amazing time with my niece Wendy, her husband Tony, and their 7-year-old daughter, Isabelle.
Entering Williamsburg with one of the historians. Brad is on the right…
Inventory of original items in the Peyton Randolph home.
On Veterans Day, we visited the Military Aviation Museum with Wendy, Tony and Isabelle. When we entered a restored, musty control tower brought over from England, Isabelle said, “This building smells like history.”
On our last day in the area, we spent the afternoon kayaking on Lake Christopher with Wendy and family, then ventured to the Norfolk Botanical Garden for an incredible holiday night display.
One of the last light structures we saw was tree shaped, with a star on top. It hovered over the walking path. Isabelle and I stood for a moment under the strings of blue lights. “Look up,” I said.
“Whoa,” Isabelle shouted. Whoa was right.
In that brief encounter, all that I’ve experienced these last few months melted away. I felt like all of my angels gone from my life too soon were letting me know that all is well. They are with me, helping me on this life journey.
They are lighting my way, and I’m paddling, moving forward.