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I sit on the rocky shore of the Snohomish River nursing a beer, reading a memoir about the grief of losing a mother too soon. I have my own “personal” patio at my campsite. I hear the cackling call of a bird and look up. A mother duck and her baby—no, two babies—are playing at the convergence of two forks of the river. They swim upstream then ride the rapids down.

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Mama duck half flies half hops to the rocky bar in the center, her willful children don’t follow. She cackles at them and they scramble onto the rocks. She floats off the other side and they follow her, gliding into calmer water, then suddenly turn and beat a path back upstream while their mother isn’t looking.

Three more ducklings appear from the shore and she hollers for the other two, who don’t come. She leaves the three and flies just above the water’s surface to round up the rebellious twins, then turns and flies back to the triplets while the two breaststroke toward them with all their might.

Mama cackles at the disobedient ones and all six float around the bend and out of sight.

I finish my beer and return to my book, glad it’s not my problem. Not today anyway.

The next morning I drive to a hike destination and am delayed by a gaggle of lollygagging geese, some of the children on a sit down strike. I have all the time in the world. Today anyway.

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