Two days ago I woke to find a story in The Canberra Times about a mother duck who returns each year to the Australian War Memorial to give birth to a brood of chicks in the Pool of Reflection. Because the mother duck is such a regular, Memorial staff have made a ramp so the chicks can get out – in the picture above, which shows the family hanging around the Pool’s eternal flame, the little guys are only 24 hours old. The staff also escort mum when she and the kids make the journey across a series of busy roads down to the nearby Lake Burley Griffin where she’ll do the actual raising.
It is, of course, an image of contrasts. Delight in a place of heaviness. A celebration of hope in an institution that remembers extraordinary – and potentially futile – loss.
Yesterday, as I was walking around the lake, I saw coming across the water – yes, it was her…them! – the mother and her brood. I stopped to watch, as did three female joggers; the female joggers deplugged themselves from their iPods. The ducklings zipped here and there as if they didn’t have a minute to lose, all the while the mother kept a close, nervous eye on her charges.
Barely a minute later, the surface of the water broke and for a split second the joggers and I saw the mouth of a large carp – the bloody ugly fish was trying to take one of the ducklings. In a flash, the ducklings reformed themselves in a tight group and then the mother quickly escorted them to the relative safety of the shallows.
As I walked away I couldn’t help wondering if the carp had managed to score a duckling and drag it underwater, would the mother duck grieve for her loss?