Lately it’s been a series of ups and downs in the world, the community, and in our family. People are finding their voices, weather is wreaking havoc, and personal battles wage. Our seven – year-old great niece is fighting for her life after a bout with the flu, our beautiful first grandchild has arrived, more unrest has erupted around the globe, and as we anxiously await the arrival of our next grandchild, we wonder what tomorrow will bring. Life gets hard, then happy, then scary, then, well, life-y. There are days when I just want to stay in bed, flip my pillow over to the cool side, and wait for it all to pass. But this is life.


Just the other day, when the winds roared through town like a freight train, I saw something that looked exactly like life, with all of its highs and lows, its furry and calm. I watched. I waited. I patiently sat there to see how it would play out. And then I laughed, knowing that I had been witnessing life … just in a different form … with feathers.

With every gust, my car rocked side to side and I wondered how much wind it would take to lift the Mini Cooper that was parked next to me in the lot, and deposit it on the hood of my car. Oh, the things that run through your mind when the world seems uncertain!

There I sat, looking across the street at the once drainage ditch, that was now a small pond thanks to the  recent downpours. White caps proudly slapped against the grass, announcing how mighty it had become. That’s when I spotted them – two mallards – bobbing on the great waves, beaks facing into the wind. Their feathers no longer had the appearance of a slicked back ducktail, rather the hair of a mad scientist. And although I doubt ducks have the capacity to change their expressions, these two looked frantic, exasperated, and without a survival plan. That’s when it happened. One of them threw in the towel, stuck his head in the water, and left nothing but a ruffled-feathered behind sticking up in the air. The other one, did a quick look to his left, noticed the new posture of his friend and turned back to face the wind – steadfast in his determination to stand guard and wait it out.

It seemed like an eternity before the other one surfaced, but he did, took a quick glance to his right, and went back down. Before long, reinforcements arrived. They seemed to surround the original two as if to say, “Don’t worry. We’ve got this.” Almost on cue, they swam into a huddled mass and faced into the wind together- all except for one, whose head was still buried beneath the wicked sea.

Before long, there was a break in the wind, and the intrepid little group raised up a bit, flapped their wings in tribute to their victory, and gradually took off one by one. As I left I noticed the original two mallards swimming to the end of the ditch, both upright, both ready to move on. That’s when I thought … just like life.

Sometimes we’re faced with challenges that are simply too much to endure; we can’t face the storm for one more minute. If we’re lucky, someone steps in to be by our side, to ride out the turmoil, to be the strong one. And if we’re really lucky, reinforcements arrive. Faith in humanity is restored.

On that blustery day, I was reminded that it’s ok to lean, to let someone else be the strong one, and when you’re ready, it’s ok to let the strong one be you.

In April 2017, this article was published in The Buffalo News.