Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.
I heard Rusty talking when I came in. Thinking he had a guest, I stuck my head in the room to say hello. Instead I found him by himself, talking to the computer screen as he checked out the surf reports and live Web cams at the different beaches.
“Venice. Nope. Dockweiler. No way. Hello El Porto! You are looking so, so bueno today,” he said.
Finally noticing me he yelled, “Yikes, you scared me! Get Richard, get your gear. We’re surfing Manhattan today.”
Grabbing our boards we jumped on our unicycles. By weaving our way through the streets of Santa Monica, Mar Vista and Marina Del Rey we were able to avoid Lincoln Boulevard until the last leg of our trip. If you think Lincoln is a bear in a car, try it on a unicycle while balancing a surfboard on your head.
Rusty had chosen well. Once we saw those solid 2-4 foot waves with that long, slow break we knew the ride had been worth it.
Richard sat on his board bobbing contentedly. I rushed to catch the first wave. I knew Rusty was watching so I showed off, just a little. I walked the board and then with a yawn, nonchalantly hung 10. Not one to be outdone Rusty paddled fast to catch the next wave. He walked the board too, only backwards, and finished with a handstand. He is so good. As we paddled back out he told me walking backwards is supposed to build brainpower. He thinks doing it while surfing might just make him a genius. There is always hope.
At lunch, Richard finally finished the book he had been reading all week. Looking excited he asked if we could stop at the Ballona Wetlands on our way home.
We asked what was up. Richard said it all started with this quotation, “I believe there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”
He said the words spoke so strongly to him he rushed out to find more about the man who wrote them, Henry David Thoreau.
He told us Thoreau was a multi-talented individual from the 1800s, who through his writing had influenced many great thinkers including John F. Kennedy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoreau is best known for his book, “Walden.” It tells of an experiment in which he built his own house and for two years lived a simple life, close to nature, in the woods near Walden Pond.
Richard had found a new hero. Thoreau was a naturalist and considered to be the father of American nature writing. He was also an advocate for biodiversity and ecology before those issues even had names. His writings on natural history and philosophy were the basis for modern ecology and environmentalism. According to Richard, Thoreau even invented the idea of nature walks, though he called them “rambles.”
Inspired, Richard wanted to conduct an experiment too. He didn’t have woods and a pond nearby but he did have the wetlands. We each received an assignment. I was to ramble through the wetlands, Rusty was to sit in a tree and see the world through the eyes of a bird. Richard, as he heard Thoreau had done, was going to experience the world through the eyes of a frog. Then, like Thoreau, we would write our personal observations and philosophical reflections.
Richard submerged himself in the small pond until only his nostrils and eyes were above water. He noted how soft the algae felt as it brushed his face with the subtle movement of the water. He held his breath as a dragonfly landed close by.
Rusty, of course, noted that the birds were eating and soon was nibbling right along with them. He seemed to be having a contest with a yellow-headed blackbird about who could eat the most insects.
Me, I just rambled. A red-tailed hawk soared above me while I watched a yellow-faced bumble bee and a hummingbird dance from flower to flower. A spider creating his intricate web held me spellbound.
As soon as his belly was full Rusty grew bored with life as a blackbird. To Richard’s dismay he insisted on joining him in the water.
All went well until Richard thought he heard soft snoring. Suddenly, Rusty was gulping, sputtering and splashing. He had fallen asleep.
The mood had been broken and it was growing late. We decided to call it a day.
That evening as we shared our experiences we found that our experiment had sparked an even deeper appreciation for living in harmony with nature. I also found myself thinking how lucky we were to have a brother who often walks to the beat of a slightly different drummer and in that way helps us experience wonders in the world we might otherwise miss.
Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org