Yesterday we went to the Milk Carton Boat race at Lake Calhoun. Its our favorite part of the week-long Minneapolis Aquatennial. Yes, people actually construct boats from milk cartons and then get into them to race over the 100 yard course. Some are not entirely sea-worthy. It’s quite humorous to see otherwise boat-savvy Minneapolitans making fools of ourselves.
Amid the hundreds of revelers along the shore a Mother Mallard with five ducklings caught my attention. They seemed quite at home amid people who in other circumstances are their predators. Was Mama Duck actually teaching her children to befriend potential enemies and confront their engrained fears? These would be essential skills if they are to grow-up and survive in a modern urban setting.
It’s good for our health and delightfully frivolous to paddle-race milk carton boats from time to time. Children brought by parents to witness the spectacle had their creative imaginations stretched and saw what playful competition can look like. Along with Mother Mallard and her five ducklings we were all getting an important lesson of living well in community.
Basking in the spirit of summer in The City of Lakes, I was reminded of the Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, The Swan:
This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.
And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself
into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.
Poem translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows