Franciscan Spirit Blog

Riding the River

Mallard duck on the water | Photo: ChrisF via Pexels

The Farmington River rushed high the other day, about the width of a three-lane highway, moving at a good pace after a weekend of heavy rain. I spotted a single male Mallard duck with a glistening emerald-green head. Usually, the ducks are in a group of pairs along the muddy edges. He came around a tight bend alone, about eight feet from shore, where the current was the fastest, and the surface the glassiest.

He was clearly just riding the river. I burst out laughing because he was such a tiny creature surrounded by all that water, all those trees and sky, and I could tell he felt really good. He had no intention of stopping or changing his mind. Clearly, it was just so much fun. There was no need to turn around or to fly away.

He kept gliding along as if—well, as if he were part of the river. Which he was. I kept watching until he slid out of sight beyond the farthest turn. I was sad to see him go, but he was on a mission. And this is what struck me: from the moment I spied that duck, I loved him. It made no sense.

I stood wondering if this is how God viewed me. Was I like that, just moving along, loved from a riverbank, and I didn’t even know it?

A melody sprang from within, matched perfectly with the lyrics. I had not thought of this song, in all honesty, in several decades. We sang it at the 10:00 a.m. folk Mass when I was a child. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me. I would say that the duck qualifies as the “least of my brothers.” All alone in the tranquility of the woods, my connection to nature pointed me to how I love, how I might be loved.

The heart is the heart, joyous and free. It makes no sense that I loved that little duck. Love just is. I’m dumbfounded by the mystery of it all. I’m reminded again that delight and beauty are right here. He’s a duck. Not as cherished as a trilling lake loon, not sonnet-worthy like a duet of white swans. Though some might dismiss him as underwhelming and ordinary, he showed me possibilities. With a cap of iridescent feathers, he rode that river for all he was worth.

Gather the Fragments by Maureen O'Brien

11 thoughts on “Riding the River”

    1. Maureen O'Brien

      Thank you for sharing this response! I am STILL so grateful to that little duck for his joy!

  1. That beautiful creature had so much trust in God. May we all trust in our Heavenly Father, like this duck, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds our lives that He has given us…

  2. Absolutely heartfelt and touching. Thank you. Animals, for me, have and continue to be, some of my greatest teachers. I am so thankful for these loving and amazing creatures of the earth.

    1. Maureen O'Brien

      It’s incredible the abundance of love that animals bring! It never ceases to amaze me.

    1. Br Gus.. I suppose that my ideas about heaven will include sitting with yourself and Maureen sipping tea and feeding the ducks … Lovely thought before I go to to bed now .
      God Bless all from me and mine here in England.

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