I am sitting in the middle of the Temperance River on a large bolder. It’s late fall, and there is the edge of winter in a light north breeze. The sun is warm and there are a few white cotton clouds in a too blue sky. Water the color of tea turns white in small rapids. Sunlight dances off the water, and I am watching yellow aspen leaves swirl in the eddies when I hear something.

A quack. Followed by another quack. I turn and look upstream to see three Redhead ducks in a row on the water. Headed downstream, the lead duck paddles across the current to find a chute, and the other two follow. When the third duck is through the chute, it quacks. They appear to be running the rapids.

Having run most of North America major rivers and rapids in my youth, I am awestruck. Momentarily, I think I am seeing just a single occurrence. A coincidence. But the ducks proceed past me, actually crossing the river to run another drop. Then another. Each time the last duck is through, it quacks.

The naturalist in me seeks to think of a behavioral explanation… a survival mechanism or feeding pattern that is at work. I can’t come up with anything. Do animals play? Whether they do or not, I smile. A minute later, after disappearing from site around a bend in the river, they fly upstream over my head, land in a pool and begin again.

Graduation is an important and somewhat serious ceremony. I’m not giving a commencement address, but here is what I’d say.

You will have lots of opportunities to work and do great things. Work expends energy to produce something. It’s often done in the service of someone or something else. Play expends energy to amuse or entertain. Usually oneself. But play has benefits. It clears the mind. It re-energizes. It helps creativity. It helps you learn.

My advice. Play more. Have more fun. You will have plenty of time to be serious and do great things. But if you aren’t having fun, then something is out of balance.  

Work? You can occasionally duck this.

This was a good day.


L. Hobart Stocking
651-357-0110 (C)