Lessons in nurture, from nature

There is no more beautiful time of year than the time from spring into summer. Trees stand tall and proud in their new coat of leaves; the grass is not so tall as to obscure the undulating ground that it covers, and the green now hides the remains of winter.

Array

Array

There is no more beautiful time of year than the time from spring into summer. Trees stand tall and proud in their new coat of leaves; the grass is not so tall as to obscure the undulating ground that it covers, and the green now hides the remains of winter.

We walked through the McKenzie park area and we were surrounded by the sound of all types of birds both on and off the water as they called out to each other and fed their young. The wind was blowing fairly hard, so the young goslings were all huddled together soaking up the sun while the adults rested nearby ever vigilant.

Not wanting to disturb the birds, I had brought along a pair of binoculars so we could observe the wildlife up close, and the birds I really wanted to see was the pair of nesting loons at the west end of the ponds. We were not disappointed. For me, nothing identifies the prairies more than the lonesome wail of the loon at dusk or the prolonged whistle of a train in the distance. No other sounds more exemplify the hugeness of this beautiful land.

This particular pair has been nesting here for several years, but this is the first time I was able to observe them with their offspring. Both male and female carry the same colors, so the only way to tell them apart is by the size.

So as we watched this pair, we could only assume that it was the male taking care of the only chick that they had. A single chick is not uncommon for these shy birds as they normally only lay between one and three eggs per season. But what is really unique about them is the way they raise and care for this young one.

Once hatched, the chick spends its first few weeks on the back of one of its parents while the other adult goes in search of food. Once obtained, the adult proceeds to feed the chick while it is still on the other’s back.

While we watched, a pair of ducks landed about five meters away. All of a sudden the carrying adult, which we assumed was the male, sank in the water dislodging the chick and made a beeline toward them at which point the two ducks beat a hasty retreat. Then, as if to say, “There, that’s that taken care of,” the loon swam back to the chick and proceeded to re-establish the young one on its back.

As we continued to watch these beautiful birds, I thought about not only how we raise our own young, but how we nurture people who have come out of addictions or street life. As with the loon, the young are protected by the adults until they are strong enough to care for themselves. And as with our own children, we have to be prepared to carry them on our back (not literally, thank goodness) until they are strong enough to stand on their own.

Being their guardians, whether our own children or someone making a life change, we as adults have to be prepared to stand in the gap for them in order to protect them from what could possibly be danger, or a negative influence, and sometimes, depending on the growth rate, it could be a longer ordeal than what we first anticipated.

And sometimes we have to be prepared to play the role of defensive tackle so that a path can be cleared for their safe passage.

It is good to be able to take a step back; take a walk in a park, and observe what creation can teach us about what is really important. As I see it anyhow.

Chris Salomons is kitchen co-ordinator Potter’s Hands Ministries.

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