<i>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>

Rusty has been in a terrible state the past few weeks. He has been reduced to a vibrating bundle of nerves as he waits for the call that will send him winging his way north for the Mavericks surf contest.

Surfing Mavericks has been Rusty’s life-long dream. This year his dream came true. He won a spot in the famous big wave surf contest at Half Moon Bay. The start of the contest depends on Mother Nature creating the perfect conditions that will send giant swells rolling in from far across the Pacific Ocean into Half Moon Bay. This could happen anytime from December to March.  When that time comes, Rusty will have only 24 hours to arrive and be ready to rip.

We love surfing too but Rusty is definitely the duck for this contest. He is fearless. He says the unpredictable conditions, shallow reefs, strong currents and bone chilling water add to the excitement. When Richard and I think of facing all that and 50 -foot waves, the emotion we feel is not excitement and our knees knock together like tambourines.

We wish we had the courage to be out there, in the water, right beside him. However, we know when Rusty comes sliding down the face of a 50-foot wave, our view will be from the sidelines looking through the tiny spaces in our wings, which we will be using to cover our eyes.

In the beginning, Rusty was fine with the waiting, even casual.  That all changed one day in mid-February when he left his cell phone at home. After he calmed down from the panic attack that followed that event, he literally flew out the door to buy a Bluetooth. He has since had that thing in his ear 24/7. I am hoping surgical removal will not be necessary after the contest.

While Rusty waits for Mother Nature to “bring it on,” his nerves are stretched to a pinging tautness. He is overflowing with nervous energy. Long surfing sessions twice a day seemed to add to it rather than deplete it. Meditating with Richard has helped, but not enough. He heard simple tasks could be calming, zen-like. To our great surprise he took on all the household chores. Still, he has more energy. We should be happy but instead we are worried.

Quite by accident Richard found the fix. He asked Rusty to help him set out some tomatoes. That took Rusty all of 15 minutes.  Next, Richard sent him for newspaper and kitchen scraps for the compost. Back in a flash, Rusty tossed everything in. He mixed and spread and finally turned the compost exposing a mass of wiggling earthworms. Transfixed, he stared in fascination.  Richard swears that Rusty’s observation of the complexities of the microcosm in the compost bin took Rusty to a different plane. I think Rusty just likes worms. At any rate, he became calm.

There were so many other interesting things going on in that bin, but all Rusty wanted to know about were the worms.  Sounding like a professor, Richard answered his questions. He told him how during the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago, a massive glacier receded and wiped out nearly all the earthworms in the United States. We were essentially earthworm free until European settlers arrived bringing with them nonnative earthworm species. Those worms repopulated the U.S. He told Rusty how valuable they were to food production. He said, “Worms mix and aerate the soil making it easier for plants to grow. They also tunnel in the soil creating pathways for the roots to follow. They have voracious appetites and can eat up to 1/3 of their weight a day and their waste enriches the soil. In my opinion they are the ultimate recyclers!” 

As he completed that last sentence, Rusty, who had never stopped staring at the worms, gobbled a bunch, slurping them up like spaghetti. Licking his lips he said, “Mmm, and they taste good too!” Eyes wide with surprise and then anger, Richard shouted, “Hey! Stop that! This is a compost bin, not a cafeteria!”

I don’t want to say I told you so, but I told you so. Due to the calming effect it had on Rusty, Richard has agreed to let him help with the compost bin but only under his supervision and only until he gets the call. Rusty teases Richard by referring to the compost bin as his personal worm collection and by calling the worms “Earth Spaghetti.” When will that Bluetooth ring?

Phyllis and the quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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