The first few minutes of my train ride are always on the dramatic side. I am charging to get on the train, no matter at what time I catch the train, I charge to get on it. My feet pump like a fast flowing river and my heart resembles a mambo drum echoing in the Kenyan national forest. Obviously, it takes a bit of soothing to calm down the nerves after that.
The scenery outside does just that. You see the first few minutes afford a view of a smallish lake and the hills nearby. Come Springtime, the water bodies are full of ducks with their ducklings in tow and the heart slows down. It has to. It is a marvelous sight and I must say it is with reluctance that I pass up that view as the train heads out into the bustling city.
How lucky those ducks are, I tell myself. If these ducks knew of the life Mr Peck leads, there would probably be a pang there. No trains rumbling nearby to disturb Mr.Peck’s peace. No Sir. Mr Peck was a magnificent duck the son and I befriended on one of our hikes down at Lake Tahoe. As we set off down the steep slopes towards the lake, there was an ominous looking sign that wanted hikers to know that it was a steep hike back. While cylinders roll down easily enough, they find it hard to roll back upwards seemed to be the gist of it.
So, off we went, gibbering and jabbering all the way. The snow had started to melt in places and we heard little gushes of streams all the way down. We stopped to play with some of that water and even gulped a little.
The son and I were the ones who reached the lake shores first. There was nobody down there. There was a thicket of trees behind us, a sandy beach on which there was one picnic table and the water gently lapped the shores by the picnic table. We sat together in companionable silence, and watched the distant island in the lake. One duck, paddled away serenely at a respectable distance.
After a few minutes of this silence, the duck came to join us, probably to satisfy a noetic urge about humans. We sat quietly and he came and looked at us in turn. He then pecked at something on the lake shore and circled us taking us in. The son was beside himself with excitement, but for a toddler with a loud voice, he kept silent and the duck and son had a silent rhythm of reciprocated curiosity going. If I had not been right there, I wouldn’t have believed how long this state of affairs went on.
The duck gazed, we gazed. The duck lost interest and pecked and we looked at the lake. Then the duck gazed and we gazed back. The duck did not seem to think of us as pestilential creatures out to ruin his habitat, or if he did, masked it politely. It is one of those moments of time when a fast spinning top slows down just enough to take in the world before spinning at top speed again. It was only after the duck swam away that he was christened Mr Peck.
The daughter came charging with her father and grandfather from the thicket of trees a few minutes after that. The sun was starting to set, and the pinkish hues were already coloring the peaks as if the mountains were blushing. All the contained excitement about Mr Peck came bursting forth from the son when he saw his sister. Excited gabbles were heard for miles in the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains as Mr.Peck assumed a small role in our family story, and nestled in next to Patchy (that sweet lamb who taught us a thing or two on patience and perseverance).
I think of Mr.Peck everyday when I cross the lakes with the ducks and wonder if he knew what a lovely life he led.
Happy Earth Day to all our fellow beings. Mr.Peck, I hope you are having a nice day down by the lake.
P.S: Mr Peck has since been identified as a Canadian Goose. (The local ornithology club probably has a picture of us barring entry, but we have a history: https://nourishncherish.wordpress.com/2005/08/25/ducks-fishes/)