Friday, February 29, 2008

I am a Duck

I am a bird.

In fact, a duck.

Most likely a mallard.

If one has to be a bird, I suppose a mallard duck is not a bad thing to be, but if I am honest with myself I would much rather be an owl or tern or maybe even a peregrine falcon. All fine birds. A duck is a fine bird, too, I guess. But it doesn’t really have the panache, the style, the grace of the other birds.

Ducks can fly, just like owls and terns and falcons. But it isn’t really a question of being able to fly; for most birds, flight is a given. To muddy the analogy even further, I am a bird in the same way and to the same extent that Harrison Ford is a singer. Mr. Ford, (a fine actor), is capable of singing. He probably sings in the car and in the shower and maybe even in the kitchen as he makes himself a sandwich. But you’ll notice that he has not had any singing roles in any of his movies.

Mallards can fly. In fact, they fly all time from place to place, sometimes covering hundreds of miles in a day. But when they fly, they always look like they are barely in control of themselves. They appear to be straining themselves all the time as they crash down to a landing on a body of water. They seem to flap their wings twice as hard as other birds. When seagulls come in for a landing on water I get the sense that their feather lice clap in appreciation of a perfectly smooth landing, the way some Kenyans clapped when the pilot of a domestic flight I was on from Nairobi to Kisumu applauded a smooth touch-down.

But when a mallard comes in for a landing you can practically see their little parasitic hitchhikers jumping ship left and right in anticipation of a crash involving feathers and spray everywhere and a cartwheeling carcass finally coming to a stop and slowly sinking to the depths, occasional bits of fluffy down rising to the surface.

So, when it comes to life, I sometimes think I am a duck.

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