Should we live our lives like “Quackers” the Duck- or not?

I heard a very sad story from my friend Bob yesterday about “Quackers”, the Duck, Bob’s pet. “Quackers” lived happily for nine years at Bob’s home. He would stick his head out of the wires in his pen when he heard Bob or any other human nearby. “Quackers” was a social able duck and loved to be around people or Bob’s dogs, the cats, etc . Bob would leave him out and he had the run of the property most days.

Well when Bob went out to feed “Quackers” the other day, he was gone- vanished, empty cage. The door to his cage was still locked but the wires had been stretched apart and a gaping space remained. Bob figured that “Quackers” stuck his head out to see who was present and a fox or a coyote grabbed him by the head in its mouth and yanked him right out of his safe home. A week later, Bob found a pile of feathers on the hill behind his house.

Last September, after climbing Mount Katahdin with a group of combat vets and their leader, I decided to stick my neck out and take a drastic turn in my life. Put my personal dream of publishing a book about raising and educating my children on hold and dedicate all my time to this new cause. My wise-beyond-her-years daughter, sternly warned against it. I figured she was jealous of my new passion, stealing my time and energy away from her and my family.

But when she met my new partner in this endeavor in person, in October, she immediately did not like him. “He’s using you Mom. He’s going to take every advantage of what he can get from you for his program and then throw you away. He doesn’t care about YOU either. I can tell.”  I did not listen. I trusted him and wanted to believe in his goodness and the positive work I could do.

It has always been my philosophy…that “if we take people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat them as if they were, as what they are capable of being, we make them become.”

Well, six months later, Sierra’s prediction came true and I am trying to pick up the pieces of my broken dream and hurt heart and move on.

I asked my husband last night what he thinks the moral of the “Quackers” the Duck story is. He replied, “Stay in the safety and security of your pen. Don’t stick your head out.” That would be the answer of a guarded, non-trusting Pennsylvania German. Stick to your safe secure universe where you know you can manage and control most things. Don’t take chances and certainly don’t whole-heartily trust people right off without first learning if they deserve your love and energy. Pennsylvania Germans take a long time to welcome people into their hearts and lives. Not just anyone wins their trust and love. Very few actually.

Well, that’s not how I live and even after this trauma and loss, I don’t know if I can embrace that philosophy. There is nothing wrong with adopting a little more caution in life, I suppose.

The Pennsylvania Germans have a saying, “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.”  Maybe after thirty more years of living with a Pennsylvania Dutch man, I will become more non-trusting… or not, and remain like “Quackers” the Duck, sticking my neck out, taking a chance in life, believing in people and giving them the benefit of the doubt right off whether they have earned it or not. And, really, when you think of it, in 58 years, this is the very first time I have encountered this loss. “Quackers” the Duck lived nine happy years amongst friends. He saw every creature as his friend. Same same. In reality, through it all, I only lost a handful of feathers.

14 thoughts on “Should we live our lives like “Quackers” the Duck- or not? Leave a comment

  1. I was reading on the warrior hike page that you’re not longer associated with them and was wondering what that meant. Now I know – a bit at least.

    (Interesting though that they’re still using your quotes as spiritual guidance or at least marketing material)

    As a German German in Germany, my take is: Don’t stop to stick your head out. You might lose a few feathers doing it but imagine a a safe life where you see nothing but pen walls! What a horrible thought!

    I don’t like mottos, dogmas or phrases. But i have had a feeling for a long time that (one of the most) tragic things to lose, the one thing that I’d miss a lot if not most would be my naiveté. My believe in the good of people. My believe that it’s worth sticking the head out of the pen because the chance is outweighing the risk.

    I don’t get those Pennsylvanian Germans you quote at all. I’m sure they’re not as timid as you make them look. After all they must have some balls in their genetics. Their ancestors stuck their head out – all the way from the motherland to where you’re smirking at this now.

    Duck love

    1. Holger- you genius- and what a lucky lucky girl i was to meet and get to know you that day and climb Caracoal pyramid on Summer Solstice- i was smiled upon from on high and am continued to be smiled upon. It is so interesting and insightful to hear from a REAL German- and one such as yourself who strives to live on the edge- oh these PA Germans have true balls in many aspects of their lives, they’re just not real big on embracing strangers very quickly. and like I pointed out, it isn’t always a bad thing> i love you my friend and long to see you again soon- come visit

  2. the good you may do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
    Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
    What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
    People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.
    Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.
    Give the world your best anyway. — Mother Teresa

  3. Yes and no, in my opinion, Cindy. I am learning over and over again that aging adds perspective and can provide increasing value IF we are willing to keep considering the Yogi Berra warning – “It ain’t what you know you don’t know that really hurts you. It’s what you think you know that you really don’t know that kills ya.” I have a lengthy response to this lesson that I learning about walking in this world we live in.

    On the issue above, it reminds of another aspect of “sticking your neck” that brings danger not just from external forces but from internal faults ( I am talking about my faults here, not yours ). I have a vision of how things “could be” and passionately commit to bringing that vision to reality against sometimes daunting odds. My tests pale in comparison to what you and your family have faced and overcome during your thru-hiking experiences. Still, I often times fail while attempting to reach objectives that others have warned me lie beyond my capabilities. Sometimes, I succeed.

    Success and failure outcomes, certainly, rest on factors within my control and those external to my power or influence. I can blame some undesirable outcomes on “the fox” but I am learning – with a painfully slow record of progress – that some of my most serious setbacks are due to a inclination of vanity in my role to envision dreams capable of producing noble results versus the requirements of making it happen. I overestimate my reach and underestimate factors beyond my control.

    I see the dream. I love the light at the end of the tunnel. I begin the journey to get to the end only to realize that I do not have the ability to keep the tunnel walls from collapsing. And, that’s ok. That light goes out. I failed. The important lesson I am learning is that I need to surrender to stepping back and taking another look at what I missed going into the tunnel and why I missed the reasons for my failure. I thought I knew I could make it to the end but I did not listen closely enough to a part of the message of humility that Jesus Christ counseled his believers about.

    So, I have to accept that I have much to learn and pray about in discerning when to abandon fear out of faith in a vision of what could be versus being prudent in estimating where my power to create results ends and overzealous optimism begins.

    Here is the Bible passage I am leaning heavily on now as I continue to “stick my neck out” with projects I believe are worth the risk.

    Luke 14
    [28] For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
    [29] Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
    [30] Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

    So, I would not warn against attempting what others tell us is unlikely or even impossible. As any of your readers can see and appreciate, you have been extraordinary in accomplishing the completion of the “Scraping Heaven” journeys with your family or alone. You truly have an incredible spirit and God has smiled on you and your family in so many ways. I am learning, however, that when loved ones and people we trust see a more likely outcome of the tunnel walls collapsing than reaching the light we are focusing on we should take greater caution before we commit to entering the tunnel without seriously questioning if we really know what we are getting into.

    Passion and prudence make strange bedfellows. I wish I knew a formula to make them behave better together.

    Now, we move on and approach to ascend the next noble dream or summit, right?

    1. yes- you are so right- i love your comments- such fantastic food for thought and i hope others are reading and enjoying them and benefiting from them as much as I. onward!!!! much much love my freind!

  4. Cynicism is the hallmark of an embittered person. That’s not you, Cindy. See if this approach works for you. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

  5. I loved reading your essay. You shine through untarnished. Being in business most of my life, I, too, have “lost many feathers.” I always believed in trusting until otherwise instructed. So, after a negative incident, I would temporarily lose faith in humanity; I felt my pluckiness had been taken advantage of. Behold, my protective feathers did eventually grow back to keep me warm and ready for the next un-plucking. I think our choices to be open and trusting and vulnerable make us rare birds.

    1. Cat- love love love your reply-thank you for sharing such wisdom- It is nice to acquire SOMETHING after living long on the planet. I noticed my feathers are already growing back! thanks to supportive friends like you and believing in a dream like River House!

  6. We’re in a new age Cindy! As a young and dumb person ready to stick my neck out at anything like a wack-a-mole, I personally believe that we’re in a period of awakening. The access to information available today is a force akin to the opening of pandora’s box. To a certain extent, I worry its too much information in too little time which can drive you mad. I know I’ve had a few existential crises partly because of the internet and i’m only 24!

    All that matters is that you keep writing. You keep on keeping on. You may not realize it, but you’re a positive force. We learn, we cherish, and we take in your writings which stimulate thinking.

    I came across your recent post about Earl Shaffer by luck and it was incredibly refreshing and insightful to read. Consider me a new subscriber. The AT has called to me so I am coming. My flight leaves April 1 and I aspire to thru hike. In an attempt to experience the adventure in a somewhat traditional sense, I have not done extensive research, planning or reading about the trail. I want to discover as much as I can first hand. I sure don’t regret reading your blog though.

    A new fan,
    Craig Tsao / Affirm

    1. well for that wonderful message my dear new friend- i will pick you up and bring you home and feed you-call me when you get to Port Clinton- area- actually call me before and so i can make sure i am home- thank you for your encouraging words- i don’t think at this point i could stop or change much anyway- xxoo e-mail and i will send you my phone

  7. Cindy, keep on keeping on! People will disappoint you, but your light shines strong, and this wound to your spirit will heal. Two lessons I see here, that also apply to my own life, are (1) be more open to the wisdom of your daughter and (2) the path you had begun was not the right one for you to do the work that you are meant to do in the world. I look very much forward to supporting you in your new path, to continuing to read your writings, and to benefiting from your wisdom and experiences. Much love to you!

    1. youdoll Elizabeth- thank you- i like to see it that it was not really the wrong path but a means to arrive where i am now at- I told Elizabeth Schaeffer ,y partner in River House, that I felt like everything I have done in my life has led me and prepared me for this work and that is a wonderful feeling. Thank you for the words of encouragement. let’s meet some day!!!

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