“More trouble with ducks,” you say? Good grief. When will we get out of this metaphor? Perhaps sooner than we all thought. Because the other trouble with ducks is that they are fragile and everything wants to eat them. When this happens you are ill prepared because you have fallen in love. You have protected them with an electric fence and a little house you lock up tight at night. You believe they are safe.Then two dogs bust through that electric fence on a Saturday morning and wreak havoc on your precious feathered friends.
I have a recurring nightmare. In it the innocent suffer. Oftentimes the victims are little wiener dogs run over by tractors; babies left behind by uncaring parents; bunnies, chicks, and ducklings destroyed in various ways. Innocent beings at the mercy of a careless or treacherous world. I know Jung believed that everything in a dream is an aspect of ourselves. I realize what this means is that I fear for my own innocence. Life should have long ago–through 4 years in the military, a 7 year stint as a cop, and just growing up different in a world where difference is seldom rewarded–wiped out any illusion that innocence survives. But it didn’t. I know for a fact that innocence is alive and well when we have the courage to foster it.
You cannot be a poet and destroy your vulnerability. You need it to write. You need it to be an artist. You need it if you are to remain authentic and real and if you are to touch others’ lives, whether they are people or dogs or ducks. Innocence is precious, even if it really does end in disaster. It’s hard to love something so much and to see it end violently. You do what you can to protect and preserve your little bit of wildlife and then the neighbor’s dogs tear through the electric fence in a frenzy of bloodlust and kill your Fiona and injure Glenda and scare poor Molly (who really does turn out to be the Unsinkable Molly Brown) nearly to death. It means an expensive trip to the vet to try and save them, and harsh words with the neighbor that sound a lot like threats in the heat of the moment.
Perhaps seeing this happen to the happy little ducks I loved and did the bobbing-head dance with everyday will end the dreams. I must remember that Fiona, with her one good eye and a history of hard times, had a great life at Five Apple Farm. She never stopped dancing. She bobbed more than anybody. Burying Fiona beneath the little oak we bought for our wedding tree in November could actually bring an end to my nightmares. I now have a visual on the facts. The innocent suffer; always have and always will.
Yet, just as I imagine that my little one-eyed Fiona will become part of the tree that commemorates marriage equality for Leigh and me, I will have to let my ducks loose again so they can enjoy the sun and the rain and their pond. I must not be afraid to allow the innocence in me out of the box where I sometimes try to keep her. She must be free to do her own head-bobbing dance, whatever risk may exist. Without risk there would be no great artists or writers; no Sistene Chapel and no Mona Lisa. Too big, you say? Well, let’s bring it down to size. There would be no “Little Lazarus,” no Limbertwig Press, no Jane Voorhees calendars or cards.
It takes our most vulnerable selves to create. It takes risking our innocence to love. The failures and losses will hurt, without a doubt. But if we are strong, and determined to continue to create and to care, we will risk that pain again and again. We won’t give into criticism or defeat. We won’t give up on love. We will remember the happiness in learning a new dance and step out into empty space to see if we will soar; to dive into the deeps to see if we will sink or swim. This is the way it is, and unfortunately today, the way it has to be.