By Anne Batzer
With my hands gratefully curled around a steaming cup of morning coffee, I took a serene walk through the oak tree grove in my yard. Suddenly, like a jolt in a B horror movie, something huge rose up in front of me, frightening me so that the hot liquid spilled out of my cup and dripped down my arms.
When I composed myself, I saw a mama Mallard duck flying fast away from me. Her wings flapped noisily, her body soared outward. Eventually she landed on a rock in the river. She seemed to be careful not to look my way, as if she knew ignoring me was the best way to get rid of me.
I looked down to where she had been before I scared her. An oval nest holding ten perfect eggs was nestled deep into the ivy on the ground around the base of the oaks. Observing the exquisite geometry of the nest—its shape mimicking the gentle curve of the eggs, its color creamy soft in the early morning light—felt like an invasion of privacy. I wanted to stare at the sacred beauty before me forever, but instead I walked softly, quickly away.
Later, I went to an upstairs window—so I wouldn’t disturb the mama and her eggs—and stared down to where the nest was. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t find it. Only when I focused binoculars could I make out the maternal scene. The duck was curled in total stillness over her eggs. And even though her feathers are shades of brown, she disappeared, camouflaged completely in the bright green ivy’s play of light and shadow.
I was drawn to observe this idyllic scene several times a day for weeks. At morning’s first light, in early afternoon and just before evening’s veil covered the nest in darkness, I would watch with the binoculars. What was I watching? Mama duck never moved. Not once did I see her give any indication that she was aware of the morning birdsong, the river’s springtime rumble, the dog’s cheeky bark. Not even the occasional imposition of the gaudy sound of the lawn mower a few feet away from her caused her to fidget.
Why was I so captivated by this silence, this nothingness?
Stillness. It’s in stillness, isn’t it, where we access our wisdom, where the secrets of our hearts speak to us? I hope that if we all take a few moments to rest in stillness that the solutions to the chaos around us will be revealed. Stillness helps us increase our patience during this terrible pandemic. And deep in that stillness we sense our connectedness, our relationship to all of life, and now, especially, to our beautiful brothers and sisters of diverse races, ethnicities, orientations and creeds.
Now is a time for action: to be politically educated, to speak out, to take peacefully to the streets, to make urgent demands, to vote. Now is also a time for interludes of stillness.
Anne Batzer runs the Makena Children’s Foundation, an international nonprofit organization that provides education for rural Kenyan children. (www.makena.org)