(Write a story from the perspective of a bird migrating for the winter.)
They tell you eat eat eat. You must eat enough to sustain yourself for a very long flight. Of course you know there can and will be stops along the way, as you move south and food is still available but you must guard against storms, headwinds and other unforeseen factors.
So here I am, Daniel the Mallard drake, swimming along the shore feeling quite buff and fit . My weight is optimum for a long trip and I regularly take off and land, circling the pond just to keep my muscles strong. I feel very ready to head for southern sunny marshes and tropical fish.
Glancing over to the cattail and reeds deli area, the area is crowded with hens doing what hens do, gossiping and eating. They quack about food continuously. They eat and quack and quack and eat. It occurs to Daniel that he needs to have a good serious quack session with Henrietta the Hen.
They have been a mated pair for three years but if truth be quacked, she is getting soft and lazy. It is then that Daniel has a thought, a serious thought, about what he will do “if”, just “if” mind you, but what “if” Henrietta can’t make it! What if Henrietta can’t make it the whole distance to Sunny Shores Duck Retreat! Would he? Could he? Leave her behind? Or would he stop with her to rest and eat falling behind the flock?
It is with this glum realization that he has a very short time to get Henrietta in condition to go the whole distance or he might be forced to leave her behind and end up with a, Hazel Hen, or a, Harriet Hen instead of his beloved Henrietta. Worse yet, if he sticks faithfully to his Henrietta, he may spend part of his southern vacation midway to the tropical fish feast he so longs for, someplace like the mediocre marshes in Tennessee.
He is muttering to himself about how to approach this sensitive issue as he makes a few more fly-bys and as Daniel swoops low over the flock of hens, he calls to Henrietta!
He uses his “Come along now dear” quack...to no avail.
Two more passes and now his quacker is getting a bit hoarse and his invitation more demanding! Still no response from Henrietta!
Ok, this is it, he tells himself. I will just let fate decide! If he requests or demands one more time and she ignores him, he will check the pond across the road for Harriet or Hazel. Really you know, any young fresh hen will do. Being in a long term nesting arrangement is nice but not really necessary.
Meantime at the cattail deli, the assembled hens are advising Henrietta to just let him quack a dozen more times. They tell her, “You sure don’t want to be taken for granted.” Henrietta watches Daniel become more and more agitated with each fly-by.
In her heart she wants to join him but the other hens keep scolding her with age old hen complaints.
You don’t want to be totally “under” his wing!
Have a life of your own, they quack!
Keep them guessing, is my motto!
Another one adds loudly, Daniel isn’t the only drake in the pond you know!
Henrietta’s head is swimming in advice, she has been very satisfied being Daniel’s nestmate so maybe she best fly off and look for him!
Bidding the other hens goodbye, Henrietta flies off keeping low and just skimming the pond surface. She hasn’t seen Daniel for a while so now she glides in low circles around the pond. Quickly her wings feel her extra weight. Maybe she has been quacking and eating too much with the other hens, maybe she needs to start thinking about the future. Three passes around the pond is about all she can do for now, her wings are so tired and it will be dark soon so she flies to the small cove where she and Daniel have been spending time. He is not there. She begins to make low quacking noises, calling him in her special way. With their special quacks!
There is no response!
It was a long lonely night and a foggy morning. The air damp filled with droplets...the kind of weather humankind might say “only a duck would love” but Henrietta feels lost and incomplete. She feels a kind of desperation, almost panic. Well panic may be over quacking it but certainly she has much to think about.
Today she will avoid the deli and the other hens. Flying off to the west, she wants to work her lazy wings, she wants to fly into the wind, work hard and find new strength and energy. Underlying all of this resolve, he misses Daniel but she doesn’t expect to find him going west, she needs time alone to consider the future. The work her wings are doing feels so good. It brightens her whole day.
Daniel had spent last evening in the pond across the road. He swam among the other mallards exchanging thoughts about weather and departure times. It was good cover for checking out the other hens. He found he thought Hazel was boring, her quacks were all about herself, a very conceited hen, for sure. And as for Harriet, she was fluffing her feathers for every drake in the pond, a total hen flirt. No, neither were as nice as his Henrietta. How he missed her.
Returning to the main pond he flew over the cove and the deli but no Henrietta. The surface of the pond was becoming crowded as more and more mallards gathered for the exciting flight to the Sunny Shores Duck Retreat.
Daniel was truly beginning to panic! His decision last evening may have been unwise. He landed in the cove. He tried to think where she might be, where she could have gone.
The pond had become a cacophony of sound, it was raucous and excited. Many voices, many calls and bill snaps or clacks, often from aggressive behavior. The group was preparing to lift off and begin the migration. It was an agitation to behold and yet Daniel felt none of it. No excitement, no fear or joy or happiness.
Daniel felt empty!
Suddenly flying in from the west, a lone bird! Daniel called out! Faintly he heard and recognized Henrietta’s return call over the noise of the flock now numbering in the hundreds. She called again and glided gracefully into the cove.
Daniel pulled at her feathers and fluffed them up. He swam around her in circles of joy. But their celebration of reunion must wait as the ascension of wings and quacks had begun.
Quickly Daniel and Henrietta joined the others. It was almost sunset, the sky golden in some areas and on fire in other areas the air perfect for lift and the wind on their tails. Perhaps a storm would be here tomorrow and this wind ahead of the storm would make their first night of flight easier.
And then they were off. Each taking their rotation in the formation but never losing sight of one another. It would be a great adventure but they knew that the Sunny Shores Duck Retreat lay ahead and feasting and resting.
And of course, courtship and nesting. Daniel wondered how many ducklings he would be teaching this year. Yes, he had made a great decision, or fate had decided for him, but Henrietta was a great nestmate!