Perhaps you’ve heard of Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls? That event’s intensity pales in comparison to the excitement which occurs every morning and evening in my very own yard. We have dubbed it The Running of the Ducks, and it involves two steps: In the foggy-cool morning, sweet, fat, ridiculously-loved ducks are set loose from their kennel to dash (waddle) toward the pond (also known in Duckspeak as Nirvana) where they paddle and splash and eat whatever green growing things ducks eat all day long. In the evening, during the approximately 32 seconds between the sun beginning to set and absolute darkness, the ducks are then lured with The Great Red Solo Cup Of Duck Food back to their safe sleeping quarters for the night.
Except one night. One night it all went wrong. The sun set just a few minutes early, my people were distracted with books and homework and suddenly, night was upon us. My daughter and her youngest brother tried all of the tricks they could come up with. Offering more food. Handfuls of spinach held out enticingly. Promises of a warm bed to come. Pleas. Tears (mostly from the worried mama watching and trying/failing to not interfere). Nothing worked. Finally, one duck swam close enough to the edge of the pond for my daughter to grab her, so she was placed behind the locked-tight gate of the kennel. At least one baby was safe.
Until the protests began. Nope. Miss Duck would not have it. She couldn’t even. She was panicked, afraid for her sisters who she knew were still in the pond. She was quacking and squawking so loudly we could hear her above our own sounds ringing throughout the house. So we brought her back out into the night and placed her onto the porch where she waddled back and forth, back and forth, pacing about in her little webbed feet, her small beak and eyes trained upon the water where her sisters were still in danger. Who knew what predators were gathering in the deep woods surrounding the dark depths that held the remaining ducks? She would not leave her sisters. And they answered back, longing to get to her but not knowing how, calling out but unable to see their path to her.
Eventually, we had to place the poor girl (the duck, not my daughter) back into the shrouded pond with her sisters, where they immediately swam in formation to the small island of land in the center and huddled together, a mass of feathers prepared to wait out the cold night ahead. They were so tightly packed that we could not, the next morning, tell how many had made it through the danger. Finally, the sun warmed them enough for their wings to spread out and for their little necks to reach up and greet the safety of the day. They had survived. Together.
Right now, in this very day, we have sisters existing in places where actual predators have gathered, where the only option is to huddle together. Where there is no way to flee, no way to see the path to safety. So they stay, a tightly-knit mass of sisterhood, and wait until the morning.
Right now, we have sisters who have made a wrong step or two….and who among us has not….and they feel trapped and alone on the island of those decisions. We can enter the water with them, remain closely packed together until there is a clear path, a new day. We can remind them and, in that retelling, remind ourselves that messing up doesn’t mean we ARE messed up.
Right now, we have sisters who are in the murky waters of loss and grief. They just need a sister who won’t leave them; who will say, “I won’t try to explain this away or tell you to keep your chin up or Romans 8:28 you. I’m sorry and I’m here and I won’t leave, even when everyone else gets weary along the journey of your sorrow and paddles away to shore.”
Right now, we have sisters whose marriages are not the safe, happy places they once were. Maybe a sister has received the heart-shattering electric shock of discovering betrayal in her closest relationship. Perhaps life and work and hardship has worn her down and she doesn’t even like who she is and who she married anymore. She needs a sister who can say, “Me, too. Me, too. But I’m here to be your mirror to truth and your bridge to finding home again.”
Right now, we have sisters who are in the excruciatingly normal process of letting a child leave the nest. Perhaps a sister is caught in the current: She watches, willing her child to be a functioning, independent adult and, simultaneously scans the waters around him, her mother-vision eyesight (stronger than any military-grade goggles) lighting up the sniper here, the hidden land mine there. Her wingspan is no longer wide enough to hold the child under her care. She needs a sister who can tell her she’s normal. She needs a sister who knows the stretching and pulling of a Mother Heart, who will not rationalize away the complex ache of her friend.
Right now, we have sisters in all of these places of need. Whether or not we have been on the same waters they now navigate is irrelevant. Pain is pain is pain is pain. Hurt and betrayal and loss and grief are universal.
This morning, as I look out upon the now-icy stretch of my pond, I know that soon the quiet early air will be swallowed by the sounds of duck sisters having their version of morning coffee together. They will discuss what area of the water looks most passable. They will feel out the food situation. They will splash each other playfully and dive under and pop back up, the cold droplets of winter water running off their iridescent feathers. But they will do all of this together. No one will float away alone. Their webbed appendages will push through the reeds and the swirling places as one unit, their journey only attempted together.
Perhaps these silly ducks aren’t as silly as I thought. Let’s stay together, sisters. Let’s not leave each other defenseless. Let’s not compete: For boys, for accomplishments, for the approval of others. Let’s not climb on each other’s backs to get places; Let’s watch each other’s backs to usher us all to a shore of safety, an island of unity where we can keep each other close until the morning comes.