Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — 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.

In the brilliant sunlight the water looked like sparkling diamonds on rippling blue satin. It was beautiful. A few days of June gloom had us welcoming the sun back like a long-lost friend. We tilted our faces skyward, closed our eyes, took a long luxurious breath and smiled.

Something was different today. It must have been the return of the sun. We all felt it. Instead of racing to the water we deliberately slowed our pace to enjoy feeling the warm sand under our feet.

We paddled out with long, slow strokes. The cool water felt great as it threaded through our feathers with each pull. Before taking off, we allowed several promising waves to pass us by for the sheer pleasure of sitting a few moments longer with the sun on our backs.

Even the waves seemed to be caught up in the day’s spell. They rolled in at a leisurely pace, held at the peak for a moment and then gradually unfurled toward shore for some awesome rides.

On the way home Richard stopped to grab the Daily Press while Rusty and I hurried ahead to start lunch.

Three bites into my sandwich I noticed a change in Richard. Well, two changes, but we won’t count the big glob of mayonnaise on his nose. His smile had disappeared.  He looked troubled and kept shaking his head as he read.  Then he said, “I’m so upset! Someone wants to cut down the ficus trees in our neighborhood, again. It says here they are messy and hazardous.” 

He read a little further before he pushed aside his half-eaten sandwich. He put the paper down and declared, “I’ve lost my appetite. I need a walk.”

Richard felt as if he had walked for miles. He stopped under the shade of a towering ficus tree. Sitting down, he nestled back against its trunk. He looked high into the branches and before closing his eyes for a few moments rest, he said, “I wonder what you think of all this tree-cutting talk.” 

Just as we began to worry, Richard came walking through the door saying, “A tree talked to me!”

A little alarmed, Rusty tried to help Richard to a chair saying, “Are you OK? Did you bump your head?”

Richard shrugged him off. “I’m fine. She even has a name. It’s Philomena B. Ficus!”  

We exchanged glances. Maybe it was best to just listen for now. 

“Philomena, she said I could call her that, told me she has been a resident and a productive member of this community for decades,” Richard said. “She went on to say that she has suffered in silence for years as disparaging remarks about her and her people have echoed throughout the neighborhood.

“Holding back her feelings all these years had made her heart heavy with sadness and despair,” he added. “She was so happy for the opportunity to share her feelings with me.”

Richard said her voice reminded him of a soft, whispering wind as she told her story.

“Year after year, day after day, I have served our community,” she said. “Never once asking for or expecting thanks. Each day I consume your carbon dioxide and freely give back life-sustaining oxygen in return.

“Throughout the neighborhood my roots and those of other trees provide a natural water cleaning system that benefits all.

“Through water evaporation and the shade provided by my leaves I cool the temperature of the neighborhood by several degrees. In a single growing season, I have taken 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and breathed it back into the air. My mere presence can reduce air conditioning bills by 10 to 15 percent!

“We trees work so hard to contribute. Has anyone stopped to think where that baseball bat came from that hit the homer in that big game the other day? What about where the material for furniture, paper, homes and yes, even toothpaste came from? Keep in mind I am only mentioning a few of at least 5,000 items my people provide.

“We give so much and ask so little in return and yet the talk continues about destroying us because of the berries we drop or our roots grew too large. Do you punish your loved ones for having natural functions?

“I should mention that all of the carbon we have sequestered for you over the years is released back into the atmosphere when we are cut down. Did you know that deforestation accounts for 20 percent of the carbon emissions a year?

“All we ask for is a little soil, sun and water and we return to you tenfold. I hate to remind you but trees are the reason all human life exists on our Earth.”

After that she spoke no more. Trees don’t talk, do they?  Richard said we need to stop talking ourselves and listen more closely.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.  

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