“We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle flys highest in the sky and was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds from the smallest to the largest – we send our joyful greetings and thanks.” ~ excerpt from Mohawk Thanksgiving Address, properly called Ohenten Kariwatkwa
I peer out the window before the treetops turn golden with the first morning sunlight. There is faint mist swirling loosely above the surface of a glassy lake, seeming in a rush to be everywhere at once before it disappears in the warming sun. At the edge of the cattail, there they are. The boys are back!
Every summer while the ducklings are turning into teenagers, under the close supervision of their Mama, the male mallard will disappear. Not only do they leave Echo Lake for points unknown but their summer plumage turns drab as the guide books call it. After a molt that renders them flightless for a few weeks male Mallard become androgynous with eclipse plumage, looking exactly as the female do. In these waning days of summer I have seen them on the wing in ever-growing numbers. They are fast flyers, clocked at as much as 55 mph. They are returning to Echo Lake while their plumage returns to a brilliant iridescence, a slow molt that occurs while the seasons slip from one to another. The abundance of autumn includes many species of waterfowl. It is common that the Mallard will stay through, using this lake for their winter shelter and spring breeding.
Science journals say that the Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds. The folks who live across the water from me keep a pen of domestic ducks and chickens, I hear them regularly as I walk around the lake. A few months ago one of them must have escaped as I noticed a domestic duck tagging alone with a Mama Mallard and her three kids, then juvenile who were not yet flying but still full of themselves. The Mallard were quite aggressive towards this interloper – chasing it off, tugging at its tail feathers, generally being jerks towards it and causing it to limp severely for several days. My heart just ached for it. This domestic duck wasn’t to be dissuaded. Every time I saw the family, there was the domestic limping along or swimming close behind them. The tenacity of this duck was amazing. Eventually the this family stopping chasing it off and it is no longer limping. It has been granted a place with them. The wild migrating birds that are returning to Echo Lake have accepted this duck easily as a part of their community, undistinguished from themselves. We could learn a lot from this story as a human community I think – about acceptance, diversity, kindness, and a willingness to overcome regardless of the obstacles.
The medicine of the duck offers comfort and protection, it is associated with the astral plane and feminine energies, with water. Ducks teach us to handle our emotions with grace and ease. They serve to teach us to maneuver through the various waters of life, to explore our emotions. Their iridescent colors symbolic of our spiritual potentials, as we come into our own through drinking the waters of life. I encourage you to take a moment to meditate on this medicine, visualize the common and well-known Mallard – what stands out for you? How can it support you in the transitions of your life, with the emotional waters of the day? Allow yourself to receive the gifts of duck medicine, you may just be surprised by your own tenacity and strengths.
Mallards are a species of least concern to conservationist. Their numbers are in the millions. The same cannot be said for other duck species however. Of the 42 duck species world-wide, there are 14 species of duck listed as either vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered. The Boreal Songbird Initiative‘s conservationist Jeffrey V. Wells speaks at length as to the needs of the bird world and how ultimately these needs are for the human world and we’d be wise to tend swiftly to these ever increasing needs. Using recycled toilet paper is one immediate way each of us can be a source of this protection of these endangered birds as well as the Standing Nation.
Wopila to the boys! Wopila for the season!
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin ~ All My Relations