I love the duck pond.
My mom used to save the ends of sliced bread loaves in the freezer, and when we had enough once every couple months we would take them to the duck pond. We did this since before I could walk.
The best part was eating the bread with the ducks. It was like having a little picnic with them. I would feed the ducks the bread, and occasionally eat some of the stale bread if there wasn’t too much ice on it. They would wag their little tails and quack a lot.
When I was three, we moved to Palo Alto, which comes with its own private park that belongs to the city, Foothills Park. The park has a couple of lakes and some hiking trails. The ducks there living on one of the lakes can be reached by walking out on a pier. You drive through Los Altos Hills and get to the park; it is definitely not walking distance and may only be considered biking distance if you are a frequent rider.
One time, I couldn’t have been more than five, probably less, I was feeding the ducks, and eating bread with them, and some soccer mom approached me, and said something like “Don’t eat the bread! no!” apparently thinking I was feeding the ducks moldy bread and my own mother wasn’t watching me closely.
For a long time my mother would ask me if I wanted to go feed the ducks, and I would sadly tell her no. She couldn’t figure out why. But what was the point? You just throw some bread in the water… that’s entertainment? The interactive and empathetic parts of the experience were gone.
Eventually I got over it, maybe I forgot a little. But I don’t think I ever ate the bread with the ducks again. I still like feeding the ducks.
I don’t live in Palo Alto anymore, and neither do my parents, so I can’t get into the park these days.
Anyway the other day I was driving around the penninsula, and was stopping at a crosswalk in downtown Palo Alto, and crossing the street is the SAME SOCCER MOM. It had to be her, twenty years later, and she was walking her little dog.
I hadn’t come to a full stop yet, so I jammed on the accelerator, neatly stopping the front left wheel of my black beamer directly on her tiny dog, the leash still connected to her hand. I shouted at her “KEEP YOUR FUCKIN NOSE OUT OF MY STALE BREAD BITCH!”
She mumbled something while looking at my fine automobile, probably an apology of sorts. Her hands made a slight wringing motion. I think she finally saw the error of her ways. I really think we made a connection and some healing happened that day.
Come to think of it I should buy some nice bread so I can feed the ducks and eat at the same time and not feel guilty and victimized. The bread should be whole grain and organic and horrifically expensive, and preferably be made with a bone meal made from young children who live in Palo Alto.
I can’t help but think about the impact of feeding the ducks bread. The white bread isn’t as good for them as their normal diet of weeds and small insects. They get simultaneously fat and malnourished. Their population explodes.
Then, one day, there is a dip in volume of people feeding the ducks. Who knows why- maybe people stop eating bread; maybe the jobs in the area move away and the people with them. But now the ducks are forced to go back to their natural food sources. And there isn’t enough.
There is a massive duck die-off. Some survive on the smaller natural food, and are healthier… but there just isn’t enough to go around. Most of the ducks die until their dwindling population can be supported by their environment.
But then we are just like the ducks; our oil-driven agribusiness is the white bread. When the oil goes… most of us go. I wonder if we will live to see it?
All portions of this anecdote are made possible by ducks, and oil. The ducks are of course important. We drove to the park. I drove over the soccer mom’s dog. The bread was made with fertilizer, gas-burning tractors, and transported by truck.
It’s a strong interdependence.