Dead Ducks

These ducks, a mom and three little ducklings, may be a little hard to see, but they’re fine. The other day I found out why I’d never have made it as a photojournalist. When I found the dead ducks, the thought of taking a picture came right after being horrified. When I did think of it, I didn’t care. I just wanted to know how this happened.

At first I thought hunters shot the parents, leaving the babies to die. But the duckling that wan’t floating dead in the water was on the house steps, intact apart from the gouge taken out of its neck. Bugs would not have done that. And why, with such young ducklings, still sporting their downy yellow pin feathers, were there already eggs, beautiful blue eggs, in the nest.

Right about then Julien came by. He assured me that it wasn’t hunters. Hunting season is over. It might have been dogs, but since dogs don’t have access to my pond or to that of the neighbor, it was probably cats. And the eggs? Who knows how they got there, but even if we could reach a nest that was a good meter into the pond, we don’t have the means to keep the little guys alive. Just let it go. And let’s hope the cats don’t get those huge noisy frogs. We need the frogs.

About a week later I was back at the rental house. I couldn’t resist a peek at the nest. It had been dressed up with bright fresh leaves and there was a new mom with new little ducklings. No frogs, but maybe they were just being quiet that day.

So this is what I figure. Somebody’s well-fed psychopathic cats decided to have a little fun torturing and killing, but not bothering to eat, the first batch of ducks. They probably came upon them foraging for insects in the grass, something like that. A different duck found an abandoned nest, too good to resist, dressed it up and settled in. New day, new babies. Did the cats kill the frogs? Is that why it was so quiet? Impossible to say: I’m not that good at frog identification. If I saw the frogs again I’d have no idea whether they were the originals. But now that the neighbor cats know my rental house’s back garden as a happy hunting ground, they’ll be back. I fear for the new little guys.


Visitor Season has begun. It looks like it’s going to be a long one this year.

Close observers of my life — I know you’re out there somewhere! — know that I inherited two grandsons. They are doing fine, thank you. One will start at UC Santa Cruz in fall and the other will be in his junior year at UC Davis.

The other, henceforth known as Moses, is doing a term at Oxford. Of course he spent spring break, part of it, anyway, in Paris and another few days at the house. The interesting part is that he brought half a dozen friends with him.

He wrote to me as if he couldn’t quite figure out why they’d want to tag along. Maybe because he was the only one who had been to France? Who had any idea how to get around Paris? Who had access to a house near the beach? Could that have anything to do with it?

It was great fun. They got an apartment through AirBNB. Even in Paris, where they are illegal, I guess they are still out there. After a few days they rented a car and we all drove down to the house. I felt like I was walking through outtakes from Jacques Tati’s movie “Playtime,” with its American tourists, wide-eyed and happy about everything. They didn’t have Art Buchwald to write their dialogue, but it was the same vibe. Improbable things would miraculously happen, always for the better. Things would go wrong, but would always work out. And in the end, they made the train that took them home.

Each of those kids — I’m old, 21 looks pretty young to me — was kind and courteous, thoughtful and interesting. If they wanted to come back next year, I’d be delighted to welcome them.

The Living Room

Let’s start with the “after” photo. It isn’t quite after, as the coffee table has not yet arrived, but there is enough to see what is going on. If I started with “before,” you would not be able to see what I had in mind when I bought the place.

I remember the wallpaper as much sadder than it appears here. The curtains, though were every bit as dirty as you see, and then some. We pulled out the radiator and the worn-out bits, but saved the ceiling moldings and the window surrounds. We rewired and replaced the mildewy carpet with heated stone floors. I hope that by the time you read this, I will have found a “during” photo, in which you can see the basement, right from the living room! I know I have them somewhere….

After that I had to figure out what to do with the room. The TV is upstairs. I don’t like a living room that no one uses. So back in a corner — you can see it reflected on my right in the mirror — I put my stereo, which unlike Alexa does not spy on me and plays exactly what I like, not some Spotified approximation thereof. I have books and comfortable places to read. I may have to negotiate with Jacques for sofa space — so far he is not taking to his new bed — but all in all, it’s working.