Make way for ducklings!

My solo early morning kayaking ventures gives me space to breathe, remember and practice gratitude. I began these prior to publishing My Music Man and not long after Dad died (see: My Boat and I). Although I am surprisingly eager to return to work and no longer practice 100% telework, I do know working at home makes it easy to load up my boat the night before, hop out just past sunrise, paddle the river soon after, yet be back at my computer like normal. Yes, I am so fortunate. Grateful. Privileged.

Normally this time is for me to be, to ignore worries about work and life. This week, though, work issues broke into my meditations. A swooping heron caught my eye, as if to bring me back to the river. Soon after, it was the ducklings crossing that broke my thoughts. Make way I felt them urge me. I stopped paddling, steering a bit to avoid them, watched as they crossed in front of me, dunking their heads in the water, two in a bit of a fight –not sure if it was over a fish or merely to impress nearby females. I quietly told them they had no need to worry about me. No need as they paid absolutely no attention to me or my boat. Safe they know they are, here where the waters of Oswego Creek empty into the Willamette.

It is impossible for me to watch a crossing of ducks without remembering Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings. Two hardbound copies sit on my bookshelf, one inscribed as a birthday gift to my brother in 1957, and the other gifted to our own daughters in the 1990s. During Mom’s last years of life, we reread the book several times, appreciative of the high contrast, simple illustrations. Late last summer I read E.B White’s The Trumpet of the Swan to her during our pandemic outdoor-only park visits, before she move in with us giving us unlimited, impromptu reading times. As Louis –a trumpeter swan with no voice – earns money to repay the Montana music store debt incurred by his father, he takes a job playing trumpet tunes adjacent to swan boats in Boston’s Public Commons, circling us back to recollecting McCloskey’s duckling tale.

I was eager to visit Boston when our daughter moved there a few years ago. She and I spontaneously happened upon the ducklings’ tribute while on a long walk from her apartment to downtown, a simple sign in the Boston Commons identifying the way. Rarely had I been so excited to see a sight –the ducklings! Since then, every so often this daughter sends me photos of the statues donned in seasonal attire.

Summertime swim party!
Bonnet for Mother’s Day

Make Way for Ducklings was published in 1941 and awarded the Caldecott Medal as “The most distinguished American picture book for children” in the year of its publication. Although I adore McCloskey’s other books, especially Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder and One Morning in Maine, I know that Make Way for Ducklings was our family favorite.

The last time I read the book to Mom, we both laughed as I read the line, “First came Jack, then Kack, and then Lack, then Mack and Nack and Ouack and Pack and Quack.” Yes, it is good to laugh. I believe I will read this aloud to myself today. Or better yet, I might just go corral a couple of neighbor kids.

Looking for another McCloskey book to enjoy? I too adore Blueberries For Sal. Join me for this West Linn community story time recording of this other classic McCloskey book. Check it out, safely archived on YouTube.

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