Shortly after my daughter and I arrived in the U.S., visiting home for part of the summer, a mallard duck chose to lay her eggs in my parents’ front yard. Between the exterior of the house and a bare spot in a shrub, the hen plucked the downy feathers from her chest and created a soft and secret nest to incubate her six eggs.
The duck (whom we creatively named “Mommy Duck”) was never far from my daughter’s mind, so we’d check on her all throughout the day, tiptoeing across the rocks, and standing a respective distance away. There, we’d find her sitting on her eggs.
Hours and hours each day, the mother duck fiercely protected her clutch, silent, vigilant, only rotating herself every once in a while to ensure her eggs were all getting equally warm, and only leaving for short periods of time to look for food and water.
I felt oddly nervous for the hen. It seemed too late in the season to lay eggs, and with the unpredictable Midwestern weather, I wasn’t sure the eggs would even hatch. I wondered if the duck was nervous too or maybe instinct overrode any worst-case sencerios.
While we all obsessively waited for the sound of peeping chicks, my mom’s potted violets began blooming for the first time in years. The bright bursts of purple sitting in the middle of the kitchen table felt like a sign of hope—for the duck and her eggs and for all that’s happening in our world.
Long story short, the eggs did eventually hatch. Well, we assume they did. But not all of them, unfortunately. One morning we woke up to see an empty nest with three cracked-open eggshells, while the three other eggs remained unopened. The mother duck was nowhere in sight.
Gone was the dream of getting to watch six little eggs hatch in real time and cooing over fluffy yellow chicks. We had missed it.
We’ll never know what really happened, of course. But I like to imagine that, in the small hours of the morning, the mother duck tucked her three living chicks under her wing, made the risky journey to the lake a block away, and is now living a safe and quiet life on the shores.
Shortly after half of the eggs unceremoniously hatched, the internet was buzzing with new images of the deepest and sharpest photos of the universe anyone had ever seen: explosions of light and gasses, sparkling clusters of stars, and galaxies upon galaxies—all just a fraction of a fraction of the universe.
The abandoned, unhatched eggs were a painful reminder of how fragile life is (or as my dad, a farm boy, so bluntly reminded us: “That’s just nature!”) But the three chicks who did hatch, the violets that unexpectedly bloomed, and the universe’s immense vastness pointed to just how much life is unfolding before us. Isn’t it a miracle we’re here at all?
All these wonders—small and everyday, big and mysterious—are wild acts of defiance against a messy and crumbling world.
Today, the second to last morning before going back to Turkey, I decided to get up early and walk around my parents’ neighborhood one last time. The full moon was still hanging low in the sky and the sun was just beginning to rise, causing the clouds to appear in tufts of cotton candy pink. I thought of the photo of that tiny portion of space, “approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground,” and felt goosebumps.
I came back home and I began to pack up our bags. We’ll get on the plane tomorrow, taking us an ocean away from my parents and family, but then we’ll walk into the arms of my husband, whom we haven’t seen in two months. Bittersweet feelings abound.
And yet I’m thankful for these reminders, the duck, the violets, the moon, and the vast universe. They all point to a God who pays attention, who sees and knows, who can make something beautiful out of this mess.
And I am reminded that even in the darkness, glimpses of light and life still push through.