Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Laughing Duck

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
-Kahlil Gibran

I once picked up a wonderful book on the subject of nature and conservation. Upon opening to a random page, my eye was right away drawn to a sketch, by the author, of a duck on a pond. The duck was on its back and it appeared to be laughing merrily. I showed the picture to my Spouse, who liked it immensely and said that the image would be worth the price of the book.
It was such a pleasant drawing and, as I am fond of animals and because I treasure images of happy creatures, I bought the book immediately.
Some months later I ventured to read the piece about the jolly duck, with the drawing I had looked at often since purchasing the volume of essays.
The piece was about hunting, which I thought rather peculiar in a book about a man's love of woodland creatures.
I understood quite quickly that the writer had been inclined to hunt purely for pleasure in the days before he became a conservationist.
With new context, I saw that the duck was not what I had envisioned: it was, instead, a sketch of the duck as it lay dead, quite dead, on its back.
I almost forgave the writer because, after all, he had changed his ways and become a wonderful storyteller and caretaker of nature. Still, it is difficult now for me to pick up that book ever since the living, laughing duck turned into a mortally wounded one. It is too close to the truth.

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