The altars (offrendas) to all the dearly departeds have been dismantled and packed away. The fancy-dressed, skeletal Catrinas have slipped back into their closets. The ubiquitous, fragrant, orange marigolds have mostly disappeared from sight and smell. And the brightly colored papeles picados (paper flags) fluttering above so many streets are now wind-tattered and sun-bleached white.
Yes, Day of the Dead 2020 here in beautiful San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, has passed, and I see few remnants of its vibrancy now on my daily miles-long walks throughout the city. What remains, I observe on my explorations, are reminders that most of us among the living are doing our best to avoid dying from the COVID pandemic.
San Miguel de Allende is faring better than other locations in Mexico, I’ve read, with a total of 43 deaths to this deadly virus to date. As Glenn Wilson writes in his “Understanding Mexico’s COVID Statistics” at www.smafaq.com, “SMA is doing great compared to GTO [the state of Guanajuato], Mexico, USA, Europe and Sweden in Covid-19 deaths per capita. That really is some good news.”
Everyone here, it seems to me – including the iconic statues – is following the rules and wearing cubre bocas (face masks). Hugs and handshakes are history.
But to get away from the too, too serious life-and-deathness of all this, I’ve been heading for the duck pond near the Fabrica La Aurora art and design center on my recent walks. I stand at the fence like a gleeful little kid admiring her favorite feathered friends. I try to take their picture, even though they refuse to pose for me.
What is it about ducks that captivates me so? Their sleek design? Their comical voices? Their wobbly walk? The serene way they glide through the water? Is it envy, maybe, that they can not only walk and swim but also fly? As a natural-born earthling, Earth Sign, who clomps through life wearing cement shoes, I’ve always felt utterly earth-bound. I tend to envy creatures who can fly.
I had a student once, in my freshman English class at UNM-Taos, who made ducks the subject of her first in-class personal essay exercise. The assignment was to choose the animal you’d like to be in your next life (if you had to be an animal in your next life) and give three strong reasons for your choice. This student, Sarah, chose to be a duck. Her well developed reasons (in three separate, full paragraphs): Ducks can walk, swim, and fly. Yes! I thought when I read her paper. I totally agree! I’d like to be a duck too! (She got an A.)
I remember having recurrent dreams about green ducks when I was a child. If only I could remember more about them. What, I wonder, did they signify?
Much later, I had a family of ducks on my property when I had my “farmette” in northern New Mexico. I loved those waddling, quacking creatures like babies. This family of ducks was my family, and they seemed to accept me as such as well, odd duck that I am.
Ducks, I learned in doing some research on their symbolism, are especially interesting in that they are creatures comfortable in all the material realms – earth, sky, and sea. They therefore symbolize “freedom, flexibility, and adaptability as well as the connections between heaven and Earth, spirit and material, the astral and the physical and travel and transition between these realms” (Witchipedia).
Another source told me that ducks also symbolize growth and transformation, “releasing the old to make space for new things to come.” Yes, as the challenging year 2020 winds to a close, I’m sure we’re all ready for this.