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Four helpless ducks

An empty lot sits by the Chao Phraya River, next to the 25th floor apartment in Thonburi (west of Bangkok) where I’ve been living since May. Until last week, the lot was filled with low-growth trees and brush. I never thought anything of it. Just another vacant, overgrown lot.

Then one morning, I awoke to the buzz of electric saws and weed-whackers. A group of workers were clearing foliage and debris from the lot. “I guess they’re going to build something”, I thought. No big deal. This is a city, after all.

As soon as that thought had passed, I noticed a family of four white ducks walking aimlessly in the lot. It was the first I’d seen them, but they’ve obviously been there for a while. They had trees for shelter, and a tiny pool of rain-water for bathing and drinking. Not a bad home for a family of urban ducks.

On each of the following mornings, I’ve checked on the ducks. The trees are all gone now, and yesterday I saw workers filling in the pool. For now, the ducks are still there.

I’m not being some painfully romantic tree-hugger. I’m not going to launch a “SAVE THE DUCKS” campaign (although I’m sure it would get plenty of likes on Facebook). If it were my riverside lot, I’d probably want to build something too.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel very sad whenever I look at those four helpless ducks.

Who knows what will happen to them. I hope they move on and live happily ever after at an even better overgrown lot. I hope they don’t have to suffer. Yet I know – as sure as the morning sun will rise – that suffer they will.

I’m not judging it. I’m not saying it’s “right” or “wrong”. In due time, we’re all going to feel whatever those ducks are feeling now. None of us are safe. The weed-whacker’s nipping at our heels too.

It’s just four ducks. Yet they embody all of the uncertainty, fragility, fear and sadness that pervades this world. Birth. Life. Suffering. Death. With some love splattered in for good measure. The river flows.

Categories: Reflections
Posted by David Luekens on September 1, 2012
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 09/1/2012

    David, this piece goes a long way toward expressing much of what has been circulating in my consciousness of late. I hesitate on the no judgment concept though. I want ducks to warrant new homes when displaced by progress’s shovels. And I too wonder what the ducks will do. Will something finally drive them away from their known world before they die there – will hunger or fear or an inherent hope lead them to the river to move on? I appreciate the beauty of this tiny glimpse into life. Thank you.

  2. 09/1/2012

    Hi Ruby, I agree with your comment on the ducks warranting new homes, and of course I have my judgments and opinions. This just wasn’t the moment for that. For me, this was a moment to let all thoughts and opinions subside and just be with that deep sense of sadness and uncertainty, which transcends time and space. Four displaced ducks in Bangkok, some long forgotten anonymous ducks (or people) 10,000 years ago or 10,000 years from now. The feeling is the same. It’s pervasive. Thanks for reading, and I wish you good health and peace of mind. – David


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