This afternoon as I drove around the curve in the road I glanced toward the gorgeous flowering tree in my neighbor's yard and espied a female Mallard strutting across the lawn. It became clear that she had no intention of stopping at the curb, looking both ways, waiting for a crossing guide or any human intervention.
I was already going slow so I eased to a complete stop to witness this mama lead her seven ducklings across the road at a pace that broadcast a certain urgency. Those babies were running, keeping up, their little webbed feet tearing up the pavement. Through the open window I heard them calling to one another, maintaining some sort of ducky conversation amongst themselves. Their mother appeared to take no notice, head pivoting as she hurried along, keeping an eye out for danger (or opportunity?).
They paraded across the other neighbor's grass, making a beeline for the broad expanse of pachysandra that rings the front of yet another neighbor's house. I drove on, pulled into my driveway and jumped out of the car, sat on my front steps and watched to see what happened next.
The mother slowed once she had her babies safely under cover, though she kept moving. She maneuvered along the foundation and, a few feet short of the front stoop, emerged through the greenery which was, subtly yet distinctly, quivering with the movement of those seven little feathered bodies. She paused at the edge of the pachysandra, gave one short, decisive "quack" and, one by one, the babies tumbled out, gave themselves a little shake and off they went again, into the small wooded patch in that final neighbor's backyard.
And I sat in the sun for a few minutes longer, wondering how long it had been since I'd taken the time to simply watch ducks.