I read somewhere that Hemmingway spent a lot of time in the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I spend my summers not far from there. Fighting an attach of writer's block one day, I thought that if Hemmingway was inspired by nature, it might help me, too. On my walk, I spotted a Great Blue Heron, a Canadian Goose and a male Mallard Duck together at the marshy edge of a small lake. My muse went wild and gave me this story.
Gander splashed down at McHeron's Pond, looking for sympathy. Heron stood behind a counter of lilly pads while Mallard bobbled nearby.
"Lookin' glum, mate," said Heron.
"More like no mate," Gander responded. "All the flight up, she teased me, fluttered a wing here, honked softly there . . . Then what does she do? Picks my brother because he can honk louder!"
"Hmmm, sorry to hear about that. No others available?"
Gander shook his head. "Nope, odd number this year."
"Here, have a load of fresh weed on the house. Want flies with that?"
Mallard bobbed his head up, a long weed dangling from the corner of his bill. "What's all the fuss?" he asked.
"Gander lost out in the honk-for-a-mate contest."
"Really hurt ya, did she? Don't give it another quack."
Mallard's attempt at humor did not amuse Gander. "Just because you never hang around to help raise a brood. I really wanted to have gosslings with her."
"Well, here's how to solve that." Mallard spit the last bit of weed toward the shore. "Come fall, when it's your turn to lead, take the flock low over the Sportsman's Club. Bam! Wham! Gone to man! You consol the lonely widow all winter, move right in next spring."
"Honk! Mallard! He's still my brother. I'd rather guard my future neices and nephews from the edge."
"Hey, no need to get upset. Just trying to help. I'm outa' here." Mallard flapped off into the dusk.
"Don't mind him," Heron said, snapping up a passing minnow. "Here's a better idea. Strike out on your own, new pond, new flock. Gotta fly. Promised my lady an order of perch fingers. She's sitting, you know. I can sit, or I can fetch. I prefer to fetch"
Gander snapped at the buzzing flies, sucked another weed. Scary thought, flying off alone, leaving his pond-of-hatching behind to join a different flock. But not tonight. Gander waddled ashore, tucked his head under his wing. Maybe tomorrow . . .
On subsequent days when I walked in that same area, I did not see the three birds together again. It didn't matter. My muse had returned. Hemmingway and I had something in common--a love of nature's wild places. It's no surprise that in the years since, much of my published writings have included the environment in some way.