I do love my ducks, living ones in Teote, art ones here, and metaphysical ones all over, joying-up existence. I raise them in Nicaragua for fun, for food, for feathers; I collect Duck-Art; I've even been gifting special friends up here with membership to our "Brother/Sisterhood of Ducks," a club of graceful survivors: I love how all these ducks ride waves, weather storms, firmly waddle on land and fly transcendently above it, all in line. I'm a Duck, and darn proud to be. I've earned it.
Not that ducks are always noble: when 4, I climbed then fell into a pen fluttering with big black menacing ducks that didn't like me at all. I came close to losing an eye. "A punishment for being too curious," it was said. Yikes! It was the late 40's. Still, I've understood "pecked-to-death-by-ducks," most of my conscious life. We all have Critics pecking deep inside us, as well. Without? We live in a fractious, judgmental worldliness here: it's much easier to criticize others than to be self-responsible and grow. Good Lordy, I've done my share of pecking! Now, mostly, I’ve given it up as twisty, useless ego projection, and I forgive myself.
Too, my sweet ducks poop day and night, conspicuously. It is great fertilizer, but they tell every other duck about it, every time they do it. Sometimes, in addition, they gobble garden plants to the stems, forcing duck segregation on my Nica land, "Tierra Mia." But, man, I love to see them waddle past my feet with yellow ducklings close behind, so I let a pair of large whites wander, gorging on swarms of hoppers and leaf-cutting ants. "Pato" and "Pata," the duck king and queen of Nicaragua, are Cool Insecticides, with charming and delicious offspring.
On my first trip to Teote, in 1993, there were many synchronicities between the Betancos and me beyond our mutual reverence for the Archangel Michael, a biggie. Similarly "big," mi padre don Ramon raises special ducks out on his farm at Quacamaya [Would an Englishman pronounce this Quack-a-maya? Ha. Kingdom of the Ducks!] "Quack-quack" sings to me: then, it helped the bonding process; now, we eat the best Cumin Duckling, whenever I'm there. Add that Teote's a northern gardener's idea of Paradise, where you push a flowering branch into wet soil, to grow a new tree. Do you get the picture? From the first minute to now, I've been one happy Duck in Nicaragua, even when times were hard, as in 2000, when a machete slasher stalked the town at night, or after Hurricane Mitch killed all livestock on the farm except the ducks. Go, Quackers!
I've about 100 in my Art-Duck Collection plus a few loons since I'm crazy as one, as we all know, or, at least, "way out of the box," as one local businesswoman exclaimed, praising me highly. An odd duck, es cierto. I've got carved wood antiques, usuable decoys, pewter and glass ones, cheap Duck ceramics, rubber duckies and many soapstone quakers from Nicaragua. There's also a red metal windup duck on a tricycle and a cute metal-duckie train, a drake and three ducklings that bobble. One of the best bargain-hunters in Colorado, also a Sister Duck, keeps her eye out for more of Dougie's Duckies.
A while ago, as well, I inherited a major collection of stuffed-animal ducks, covered in every kind of colorful cloth, but I distributed them to the kid Betancos this year, feeling a 63 year-old man with a house full of "Teddy Ducks" was just too eccentric. Characteristically, the kids’ mothers stuffed them pronto into clear plastic bags to protect them from the dust of Teote. “Don’t let the pato de don Douglas get dirty!” they admonished. I’m hoping, though, the kids sneak them out in their hammocks and snuggle tight, calming the terrors of dark Nicaragua, where “wild things” really are. That thought brings a whiff of rosy peace to my own nights, up here.
I've often wondered why I have this obsession, especially given my close call as a child. I could have developed a phobia. Instead, I love them. Go figure. Perhaps it's just the similarity 'twixt "Doug" and "Duck" which grabs me? But, as with all, there must be something deeper. Years ago, a Southern Ute shaman-friend of mine declared the duck my spirit guide, my totem: he gave me a quartz duckling to hold, along with a cross, for protected inspiring while diving in the well of the Creative Unconscious: I’ve found my pearl-diving magnified, as I’m willing to stay down there longer, breathing from within. I carry them as well in my pocket with my cell phone when I venture into bloody Nicaragua. Between my duckling, my Buddha-Belly-Stone and my crucifix, I’ve become a braver soul, more authentic, even here in the heights of Colorado. A mighty "Quack!" can work wonders. [Check out a part of my collection at the top of the photo queue!]