Note: names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the story is honest.
Weekday mornings, when it is an A day, I often end up spending the first hour of my shift hunting for Christopher.
Christopher does not like Algebra Fundamentals and I can’t say that I blame him. He prefers to walk, climb and discover.
Christopher tromps through the sports fields, stands like a sentinel on the bleachers and watches worms—helping them traverse the black top for the safety of the grass beyond. He transplants ants from the classroom to the outside and is the best friend of a dog named Denali.
He had told me weeks ago that he had been feeding ducks. When I asked where these ducks were he said in the grass. It was all I could get from him.
There exists on the east side of the high school a small pond that was a project of the Natural Resources classes. It was here I thought he and the ducks must be communing. But they and him eluded me each time I went looking.
Today I discovered them.
Christopher and a mallard.
Somehow I had been overlooking this pond in a courtyard between the English and science wings of the north building.
Christopher was perched on large rocks on one side of the pond, quietly watching the mallard in the midst of the pond.
Christopher is tall, probably 6’2″ or 6’3″ and I doubt if he weighs more than 160lbs. True to his lean, bird like frame, he moves much like a crane; somewhat mechanically and slowly, but also with a sort of beauty.
To see Christopher perched on the rock was like seeing a great heron along a bank. Waiting.
When I approached, I disturbed the peaceful scene. The mallard left the pond to move further from me and Christopher left his rocky perch, probably anticipating that I’d make him go to math.
I chose to make amends by not rushing the necessary, but by making conversation. Christopher rarely talks, but when it is a topic of interest he will talk long, carefully and with great specificity. He will even make eye contact.
The female duck he told me, was not to be found this morning. But she had been limping. We considered why.
We watched the mallard grow more comfortable with my presence and eventually return back to the pond. Christopher explained to me how to tell if it was nervous—by its soft chattering noise. Then he said something that both tickled me at the time and stuck with me.
The duck he said, “was meditating.”
I’ve been studying meditation for much of my adult life; to think of an animal as meditating was both silly and profound. It made sense.
When you see a cat staring out a window or a lizard in the sun…a wolf on a hillside or a horse looking across the field…a deer at a brook or a duck circling a pond… what else makes would they be doing?
Animals, after all, are perfectly in harmony with the rhythms and nuances of nature. They are, in the moments mentioned above, without worry and at peace. Aren’t these the very ideas of meditation?
I am reminded too of biblical poetry that speaks of nature worshiping even, and especially, when we fail to.
Christopher, in many ways, is far wiser than I and I often wonder what he’d be like if he weren’t inhibited by his autism, but I also consider that likely his wisdom is a product of it. He is able to see what others cannot: Meditative ducks.