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  • Writer's pictureBulb Culture Collective

The Shallows by Melissa Nunez

When the initial two-week lockdown became indefinite, I looked for the good in the slowdown

of our days. I was very guilty of the homeschool version of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses

mentality. Juggling classes and playdates along with our curriculum, the upkeep of the house and

laundry and brag-worthy hobbies. Every week at least one ball dropped.

It felt like I could finally lose the filter and rest easy. We would be home all day every

day and I could keep things under control. No outings meant no forced small talk, no need to

prove yourself worthy of association. See, I have it all together? Look what my kids can do.

What I didn’t count on was the dauntless influence of social media. I had already sworn

off Instagram for all the buzz-worthy books and manipulatives it convinced me I needed. But

Facebook and news apps were still atwitter with quarantine “it” hobbies. Baking and organizing,

cross-stitching and gardening. I was still behind. Caught in the same old fundamental attribution

error trap. I wasn’t doing enough, wasn’t good enough to make this time count.

One thing I did ensure was that we spent time outside each day. Playing in the backyard

or driveway, walking the neighborhood. My youngest son is enthralled with construction

vehicles, and when we saw an excavator parked along the canal bank, we knew we needed to

expand our horizons, leave the confines of the neighborhood, stretch our wings.

After a full examination of the monstrous machine and its parts, arcing arm at rest, engine

still, we decided to cross the street and continue our walk along the canal. This strip of irrigation

network faces the back of a neighborhood alley, not the front and side of houses like in our

section. It is quieter, lined with more brush cover. The birds are more abundant. About halfway

down the bank we come upon a paddling of whistling ducks. There is a wide range of size and

maturation, perhaps some juveniles from a previous clutch. Much to the delight of my children,

there is also a duckling.

As I pull out my phone to document the sighting, their ecstatic vocalizations cause the

birds to take flight. All but the mother and her duckling. It continues to swim about in the

shallow water, its mother keeping vigil. She leads it closer to the opposite bank, where the black

and yellow striping in its feathers is more likely to camouflage, but there they remain.

I see myself in the circles she swims. I have no time to feed and care for a sourdough

starter, our garden is not as sustainable as I had hoped, we abandoned cross-stitching after the

first simple project. For me to take flight would be to leave them behind. And I find I am fine

with the shallows for now.

Originally Published by eucalyptus & rose 2021

Melissa Nunez lives and creates in the caffeinated spaces between awake and dreaming. She makes her home in the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, where she enjoys observing, exploring, and photographing the local flora and fauna with her three home-schooled children. She is contributor for The Daily Drunk Mag and Yellow Arrow, and staff writer for Alebrijes Review. Twitter: @MelissaKNunez


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