Wednesday, April 14, 2010


One Sunday in early spring, Mother and I stopped for lunch at the Old Mill in Westminster. A restaurant for many decades now but originally a mill, it is picturesquely situated at the edge of the mill pond. A long porch faces the pond; the walkway into the building and the dining room windows offer views of the brook cascading over the dam and rattling and foaming over the rocks on its way to Fitchburg and points east. Ducks, a few swans, and a passing goose or two thrive on a diet of whatever grows in the pond supplemented by leftover rolls, including the Old Mill's signature pecan rolls, from a basket of discarded baked goods maintained for the purpose. When Justin was six or seven, he was pecked soundly in the foot for not being quick enough in dispensing alms. The Old Mill's birds must be among the world's most prosperous water fowl.

On this Sunday afternoon, the ice on the pond had turned to a slab of slush that looked like ice but wasn't, quite. Our attention was attracted by a duck that, through force of habit reinforced through the winter, began from a floating position near the dam and, with great flapping of wings and (I suppose) stomping and clinging with its feet, attempted to scale the ice floe -- now more of a slush floe. Away from the edges, it was firm enough to hold a number of ducks. At the comparatively thin edges, it gave way steadily before the bird's frantic thrashing and flailing.

Eventually, the duck either caught on and flapped hard enough to raise itself out of the water, or arrived at a thicker place towards the interior of the ice. The last we saw of it, it was sitting on its chilly perch enjoying a well-earned rest.