One day, many long years ago, on a sunny April afternoon, Craig and I were walking along a beach in Scotland. It looked like this.
We were on the island of Iona, which is one of the most beautiful, windswept and lonely corners of the Earth. As we wandered, I spotted a pretty ordinary-looking stone lying on the sand. I don’t know what compelled me to pick it up, but I did.
I turned it over in my hand and noticed something etched on one side.
Look, it’s got a rabbit on it! I said.
Rabbit? That looks more like a duck to me, said Craig.
Huh. Maybe you’re right, I said, and absently put the stone in my pocket.
It’s travelled with me around the world and back again. Many other things have come and gone, but I still have this plain rock with an ochre duck/rabbit on its side. As it turns out, the rabbit-duck illusion is a fairly prevalent image, dating back more than a hundred years. Who knew?
Usually my stone sits on a shelf somewhere, neglected and dusty, but sometimes I take it down and look at it, thinking about Iona, and travel, and life. The stone has some important lessons to teach. It reminds me that things aren’t always what they first appear to be. You may think you’re right, but that doesn’t make other people wrong. It isn’t imperative to be right. There are always at least two sides to any story, it just depends on the angle you’re viewing things from.
There are also always going to be difficult days, weeks, years. Times when it’s best to be a rabbit. Times when you have to dig deep, take care of your family, and keep watch for predators, in whatever form they come in. Sometimes, you just need to quiet down and listen carefully to others.
At other times, it’s best to be a duck. Your days may feel humdrum and routine, but you need to keep on swimming. Maybe things are moving at the speed of light, maybe you need to slow down and just waddle along for a bit, and revel in the stillness of a pond at dawn.
Once in a great while, between the difficult days and the routine days, there are those exceptional days, the best days to be a duck. The ones that allow you to see the world from above, to put it all in perspective. The ones that allow you to spread your wings and fly, fly high.