One week ago, I sat on my porch and watched a diagonal thunderstorm. Branches and leaves flailed violently and I’m not sure the thunder ever stopped—instead it hummed low like an idling truck with shocks of explosions here and there. Its growl never stopped, though.
Out there on my porch, I stayed awake the entire night. I sat on the porch through the whole storm which stopped around 2:30 in the morning. I love a good storm, but I love night sounds even more. Night birds seem to have a more glottal call. Or is it sadder? Heavier? Their voices move like fog across the grass.
On that porch, I’d tossed several logs of wood into a rusty fire pit so the flames would keep me company. They were logs I’d chopped on my own from a tree that had fallen in my backyard during Tropical Storm Imelda. It took me months to finally do something with it. I knew before she fell that her foundation was shotty—that the right kind of angry wind would finally break her. I should have done something sooner, but I didn’t know what to do. Instead, and as I reluctantly anticipated, she finally fell. Of course then I really didn’t know what to do so after neglecting her for months, I finally decided to chop her up into as many pieces as I could.
I watched those pieces burn. I watched them spark and smoke while they hissed and popped. If I’d have given them any, I could’ve told you every log’s name. I remember how it felt to axe each one. I remember which ones made me cry. I remember which ones made me feel strong. I remember with which one I finally got the hang of it. Now they simply burned.
Next to the porch with the fire and the logs, my little duck, Dorothy sat floofed atop her nest as her eggs hatched. Quite literally they hatched through the night—through the storm, the grumbling thunder, the night sounds and the wild, darting embers. Between the sounds, I’d hear small peeps from under her fluff. The next time, there’d be more.
I couldn’t leave her out there alone. I know that out in the world, ducks hatch alone, but I couldn’t not be there. Maybe it was me that needed her more than she needed me. I told my friends that I stayed out there to protect her from predators because there are many—and it’s true, that was the reason I went out there in the first place and dragged my rusty fire pit with me along with frumpy, splintery logs—to keep watch over her. But a week later as I think about that night, something tells me she would’ve been fine without me. Or not. I don’t know.
I stayed on the porch with my boots propped on the edge of the firepit until a dusty blue sunrise gathered behind the rain-battered trees. Dorothy was used to me being there by then and let her ducklings out despite my presence. Nine little lives emerged from beneath her and as a small group, they ventured about two feet into the yard to lay together in the wet grass. They nipped each other’s beaks, shook their heads, and stayed very close to their mom.
It was then I was able to see the shells from which the ducklings hatched. Carnage. Shells cracked, torn, layers dangling, juices stale. Those small, fuzzy, peeping creatures did that. I’ve found nests sadly ravaged by rats but I gotta say, they got nothing on the strength of these ducklings. Rats’ll crack an egg. A duckling will destroy it. A mess of brokenness two feet away from a brand new pile of eyes seeing the world for the first time. They were here because of their strength, will, and perseverance. They were here because they were loved.
I’ve tried a dozen times at least in the past week to sit down and write this story—to find the words to share with y’all about the beauty, wonder, and frankly, weirdness of an all-nighter on the porch in the rain with my fire and my duck. But every time I’ve started to write something, the words escape me. Actually, it’s not that they escape, they’re just not there. One week ago, the world seemed like a different place. And in a lot of ways, it is, but in some ways, not at all.
I’m not sure I’ve said what I want to say. I’ve even debated posting it, wondering if it’s not the right time. I’ve decided to because even in all of this, there are small ducks. In all of this, under a little porch in the rain, there are small ducks.
Life is so, so fragile. It is so fragile and it is always worth firghting for.
I love you.