When Olive Duck came into our lives it was as a joke. We were dropping off yet another car-load of donations at the local Goodwill in our seemingly endless effort to zero-size our possessions. Donations were taking place outside due to Covid precautions and while Al was busy sorting our piles of stuff into the various bins, I spotted a small, drab-green, rubber duck on the ground. I picked up the duck and placed it on the dashboard, wondering how long it would take Al to notice it there.
As we were driving away, Al said, “So what’s with the duck?” I explained that I could not just leave it lying on the ground, forlorn and abandoned. With a raised eyebrow and a sidelong glance, Al reminded me that our objective was to get rid of things, not to acquire new ones. I suggested that if he did not want the duck he could take it back, but I certainly was not going to toss a poor, homeless duck into the road. So, the duck stayed. It resided on the dashboard all summer while we lived in Maine.
Silly as it may seem, the little duck grew on me. It made me smile to see it in the car. At the end of the summer I had an inspiration—the duck would travel the world with us as a sort-of adventure talisman. I decided it needed a name. We bandied about some possibilities, some more absurd than others, until we landed on Olive due to its color. Once we determined it was Olive Duck, it was clear the duck would use the she/her/hers pronouns.
Some surprising things have come out of posting photos of the places Olive has visited. First, I am having unexpected fun creating scenarios for Olive’s experiences and seeing who responds. There were the times Olive sat on John Harvard’s toe, rode an e-bike in Vermont, and “took flight” over the Colorado River at Dead Horse State Park. She recently “went skiing” in fresh powder we found on Hahn’s Peak during a hike, and followed up with an “apres ski” float in a hot tub.
What’s not to like about that? It forces me to think creatively. It allows me to share our travels on social media in a light-hearted way and connect with people without putting the focus on me. And I find that I am seeing our travels through a different lens. My relationship to the world around me has shifted as a result of personifying Olive. On the Oregon coast, Al and I took loads of photos of the scenery—tall trees, fog-shrouded mountainsides, crashing, turbulent ocean waters—but by trying to see the world through the eyes of a small, rubber duck, on that day I also noticed a banana slug on the path and later stopped to chat with a ferret lover.
Which leads to one of the best benefits: using Olive as an excuse to engage, we have met new people along our travels. When we encountered an older, widowed, gentleman walking his two pet rescue ferrets on leashes along the Oregon coast, I asked if I could take a photo of my rubber duck with his ferrets. A long, interesting conversation ensued as a result—we learned just about everything one might care to know about the creatures and a host of other topics from ferret-rescuing, nature-photographing, all around gentle-souled Greg Scott. Did you know that ferrets love tunnels and are better mousers than cats? That Olympus was recently bought by another company so Fuji quite possibly makes the best cameras now? When you see Greg’s photos (https://www.scottgeographic.org/), you know he knows what he’s talking about!
One more outcome I had not even considered when I started the @Wheresoliveduck Instagram account is that I am creating a sort of journal of our travels and adventures. By posting short, photographic evidence every day, we can now scroll back through the posts to get a reminder of the places we are discovering and exploring, the people we are seeing and meeting, and the things we are doing. Our tenyeartravels blog captures the bigger themes, but Olive’s travels have become a timeline—with a sense of humor.
Who knew a silly, little rubber duck could create so much value in my life?