I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go. I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something.
He was a much better guy than the other driver I’d had. Anyway, I thought maybe he might know about the ducks. . . . [“]Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves—go south or something?”
I figured I’d go by that little lake and see what the hell the ducks were doing, see if they were around or not. I still didn’t know if they were around or not. It wasn’t far over to the park, and I didn’t have any place else special to go to—I didn’t even know where I was going to sleep yet—so I went. I wasn’t tired or anything. I just felt blue as hell.I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who was concerned about ducks throughout the entire novel he narrates. This line, in particular, kills me, “It wasn’t far over to the park, and I didn’t have any place else special to go to—I didn’t even know where I was going to sleep yet—so I went. I wasn’t tired or anything. I just felt blue as hell.“
Blue as hell. Holden’s worry for the ducks is something you could write a thesis about, but I won’t do that, I’ll just say I love that Holden is so transfixed about the ducks, and he’s telling everyone about it, throughout the novel. I know he’s not just worried about the ducks, it’s his childhood, and fragile beings growing up in the place he grew up, and many other thesis-worthy things, and yet, even on the merest face value of worrying about mother-flipping-ducks, It’s a worry that resonates with me (And I think Holden would be ok with that and probably despise the rest). We’ve had an unprecedented amount of snow and I worry about our towpath ducks because I LOVE our ducks. Especially the little American black ducks, who I just discovered this year, though they must have been there before. I walk on the towpath to find them almost every day, and most days once I see them–all collected on the towpath with the mallards and the geese–I double back, because me walking by with Clio causes an exodus onto the water, with a call to each other that you can feel in your bones. I love that the small patch of towpath that the ducks and geese rest upon is often the only patch devoid of snow, and I like to think it’s the warmth from their warm feathery outrage at dogs walking by that makes it so. But I don’t know.
Also, I love that every afternoon at about the time the sky is mourning dove colored (which is a non-color, an uncatchable color) our yard is filled with mourning doves. I love that right now, in the snow, the mourning doves are perched in the neighbor’s tree like ripe pears. I like that I mentioned this to David, and he said he’s worried about hawks in the neighborhood noticing the proliferation of doves in our yard, cause they do seem to target them. And I said, they just like the metaphor (hawk v. dove), and David said, “Yeah, doves aren’t particularly tasty to them but they’re big fans of symbolism.” Girls, marry the man who gets your weird joke about bird-related symbolism.
Also, looking at the origin of Chaucer’s “The Lyf so short, the craft so long to Lerne,” I find it’s from a Parliament of Fowls! The narrator falls asleep reading Cicero, and is taken to a dark temple where nature is convening a parliament at which birds will choose their mates. “The dreamer awakes, still unsatisfied, and returns to his books, hoping still to learn the thing for which he seeks.” We’ve all been there! I will be reading this at greater length, and probably telling everyone about it!
I saw a video once, on the non-stop animal rescue videos that show on my timeline because I watch them all, in which a woman rescued a duck. And she said at one point in the video, (I’m paraphrasing) “I hope that I can ever be as happy as my duck eating lettuce in a puddle in the rain.” And that is my hope for anybody reading this.