I’ve been fixated on Genesis 1 lately. Well, always—many of you know my passion for learning about and taking care of the environment. But I’ve been particularly focused on Gen 1:2, the part where earth is a formless void and darkness covered the deep… the part about confusion and chaos.
Everything feels confusing and chaotic lately.
I preached my senior sermon down the street at the seminary recently on this very topic: how my faith is deeply rooted in God the Creator, and how following God through new creation after new creation means sometimes going through dark, formless voids.
We’re currently in the season of nature powering down for winter, but there is new creation all around us constantly. New babies coming into the world. New colors on the trees and new blooms and fruits on fall flowers and crops. So much of what the environment is doing in our region right now is in preparation for rest, for long dark days, and for bright new things springing forth on the other side of winter… well, in springtime!
In the meantime, I attempt to stave off the darkness and despair of each news cycle by spending time caring for my animals: my cats at home, and my goats, chickens, and ducks at Camp Hanover, where I serve on the director team. This, of course, includes Fourth Duck.
Who is Fourth Duck? Well, she’s the fourth and last of my ducklings to hatch over the summer, as part of the environmental programs I run at Camp Hanover. She was last out because she got stuck in her shell—sometimes things happen during the hatch, like the humidity dropping abruptly, which make it difficult for a baby bird to finish pecking and kicking its wee way into the world. Almost a day after the other three popped out of their shells, I helped Fourth Duck with the last pieces of shell and membrane. She had worked so hard and so long and was making so much noise. I couldn’t just let her fade away in there. But her prolonged time in the shell resulted in some serious scoliosis and quite the little swagger in her step.
The campers noticed. They saw Fourth Duck’s crooked neck and lopsided legs. Many weren’t impressed. Some thought she was kind of weird, or creepy.
But then they also noticed that she was the leader of the tiny flock—the other ducklings wouldn’t splash or play in their baby pool unless she was with them (she is top left in photo). Fourth Duck led them to food and water. Fourth Duck figured out how to quack first. Fourth Duck has spent her whole little life figuring out how to adapt to her abilities and surroundings. And even though it’s typical in nature for a struggling creature to be left behind, the flock has not abandoned her. They continue to stick by her side, even when she stumbles or takes a little extra time to get places. It was so sweet to see the campers noticing this, too, and realizing how incredible Fourth Duck really is.
Maybe this is a lovely metaphor about strength and perseverance. Or, perhaps we just need to take joy in the little things, like watching a small duckling making her way in the world. Either way, it’s a pleasant distraction from the chaos and confusion, and a good reminder that new creation is happening around us all the time.
Colleen Earp studies at the seminary and serves as Director of Youth, Environmental, and Service Ministries at Camp Hanover. Through May of 2018 she served as GPPC’s pastoral intern, and she is currently leading our youth fellowship. She is a New Jersey native and served as a YAV (Young Adult Volunteer) in Louisiana before coming to Richmond.