Sunday, July 5, 2009

God has a way of sending me Miracle Ducks...

Sometimes, in our roamings about, we are fortunate enough, out of serendipity, to speak to a stranger, and in so doing meet a very special person. Such was the case for me in September of 1999, in a lovely spot in one of my very favorite cities, Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was there for a few days to visit some dear friends, whom I’d met twenty years earlier in the club car of the (pre-ViaRail) Canadian Pacific Railway train, The Canadian, gliding through the magnificent Rocky Mountains scenery west of Lake Louise, on the way to Vancouver.

It took a while to get back to Vancouver to visit again with Alf and Joyce, but I did so in 1997, falling in love even more with this jewel of the Pacific Northwest, before heading north to Alaska. A planned photo trip two years later -- to coincide with the changing colors of the Lyall’s larches on the high mountain plateau of Larch Valley above Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies in September, 1999, and to once again experience the dramatic beauty of Moraine Lake itself -- allowed for a return to Vancouver to visit with Alf and Joyce before driving up the scenic coastline for a couple days at Whistler, and thence across to Alberta and my beloved Rockies.

I was staying at the stately Hotel Vancouver, in a lovely part of downtown Vancouver. The weather was uncommonly sunny and dry, and I was enjoying some time on my own, just roaming about with my cameras, taking in the many inviting aspects of this special place.

A favorite spot of mine is the Centennial Fountain, the main feature of an inviting plaza that sits just outside the hotel along the wide expanse of West Georgia Street. I’d taken photos of the fountain two years earlier, but this time, I was trying out one of the newer Ektachrome slide films I’d come to like a lot. And the warm early autumn sunlight on this magical afternoon could not have been more inviting for photography.

But here’s where the serendipity kicked in…and I’m so glad it did, as it became one of those magical experiences one remembers and cherishes as a very special part of travel.

As I was scouting the right angles to shoot the fountain and capture the play of back-lighting sun on the dancing waters, my eye was immediately caught by a photo opportunity not to be missed.

It was impossible not to be “hooked” by the sight of a very sweet looking woman in a sun hat sitting at the fountain behind a large poster-bedecked, flower-adorned cart with a hand-made white sign on which appeared the message, in black letters, “Too many people with no place to live.” Below it in red, “Please help.” Oh yes, she was talking to...a very large white duck, comfortably perched at the top of the cart, wearing what appeared to be a lovingly handmade duck dress.

There is something very special about people who love animals and are not at all hesitant to demonstrate that love in public. The woman and the duck were interacting in a most sweet and tender manner in the warm sunshine, with the waters of the fountain rising behind them. There was something about that scene that had me smiling broadly, including inside.

I sensed a story there, beyond the chance for some special images on that E-200 film, and I asked if I might chat with this person…and her very calm and friendly feathered companion…

I learn her name is Laura Kay Prophet, a resident of Vancouver, and her little friend is “Bobbi the Duck.” There is an ineffable sweetness and kindness about this person, and her story is about as touching as it gets.

Severely abused as a small child, she has for many years devoted her existence to helping Vancouver’s homeless. And she’s a sort of psychic reader, proceeds of which go to her charity “Duck Soup.” I make a contribution to her work, and we continue to chat. She even lets me pet Bobbi the duck, who is clearly used to such attention from humans. As we chat, Laura Kay points out that Bobbi has tear ducts on either side of her long yellow and black bill, which she explains is most unusual for a duck. “She cries real tears, just like humans.”

Naturally, as we speak I shoot a number of images of this touchingly sweet relationship.

All people who love animals, no matter the breed, are very special in my book. But something about Laura Kay’s gentleness and trust in the goodness of humanity (she could have turned out a lot less so, given her terribly tragic childhood) made me feel just a bit more glad to be alive that day…and honored to have had the experience of meeting her.

Back then, before blogs and web sites were comfortable options for reaching out with my photos and thoughts, I produced a printed newsletter for those who followed my work. It usually coincided with having a show, or introducing new images. As I recall, on returning from the Canadian trip, I included, along with images of Larch Valley, and Moraine Lake, one of my photos of the Centennial Fountain, with a narrative about the shoot. I think I closed with something like, “Let me tell you next time about Vancouver’s Duck Lady.”

I meant it as a tease for the next newsletter, but as I read those words now, and realize they were written ten years ago, and the promised “rest of the story” never got written, I feel genuinely saddened.

Sometimes, we get just too damned busy, and lovely moments and best intentions get sadly shoved aside by this or that deadline or new project.

Recently I purchased a high quality film and slide scanner, so that I could start paying more attention, in a more technically up-to-date way, to the decades of mainly travel photography on film that pre-date getting my first serious digital camera last year.

Ah, so much to re-discover…and re-live.

Well, here’s where that word serendipity also fits. Last evening, in trying to make sense of a tiny corner of a huge backlog of haphazardly “filed” slides, I came across a sleeve containing six of those E-200 slides I’d taken on that sunny afternoon in Vancouver of Laura Kay and Bobbi.

Sadly, some of my notes from that trip were not immediately at hand, and some details were eluding recollection.

Google continues to delight and sometimes even astound me, as I look for bits of useful information, often relating to years-old images. So, on a whim, while my Epson printer is squirting its fine little droplets at a sheet of photo paper to produce a hard copy of my favorite of the “Duck Lady” images, I type in something like “Duck Lady Vancouver B.C.”

To my surprise and delight appears a short documentary, made by a Vancouver film-maker in 2004 as a project for the Vancouver Film School.

Once again, I’m in the presence of this kind and gentle soul who had so affected me. She speaks of her work, and the special relationships she enjoyed with ducks before Bobbi was given to her. “God has a way of sending me ‘miracle ducks’” I’m touched by her reminiscence of one such creature, Harvey, dying in her arms, and understand how she had to have felt. I also learn that she has physical impairment from Multiple Sclerosis which, on some days, leaves her weaker in terms of visiting the homeless who so depend on her kindness.

I hesitate to write more in this post just now, until I hopefully hear back from either the VFS or perhaps Ms. Prophet to update this five year old information.

In the meantime, may I share this vignette with you, with the hope that Laura Kay is still visiting that lovely plaza in downtown Vancouver…and if Bobbi is no longer her companion, that she has been blessed with a new feathered friend to love.

I am very glad to have made your acquaintance, if only briefly, Laura Kay Prophet. You are one of God’s very special people.

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Blogger Andrée Laplante said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 12, 2009 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Who Cares? said...

I met her today. She's just as charming today. Lit up my day too!

August 14, 2011 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Sam Halad said...

In 2002 I was panhandling on Granville and the cops approached me and asked me why I was homeless and I told them that I have Tourettes Syndrome and get pushed around because of it and that I had a breakdown and ended up there. Immediately they called me a liar and said that if someone came up and offered me a job right now I'd say no. As soon as they said that, Duck Lady put her hands between them and moved them out of her way to ask me if I wanted a job. LOL (first off, if you know vancouver cops, you know not to touch them, this lady had jedi powers that were instantly noticable) Instantly I said yes and went with her to find someone else who she hired(who was tasered to death a few years back by the police) and we went to a storage building to move her stuff out and into her appt downtown. She had both of us stacking stuff from 2 rooms into the hallway so she could sort what she was keeping. So I'm passing xerox paper boxes upon boxes upon boxes(literally hundreds) with some boxes that have lids missing and I see in those stacks upon stacks of newspaper articles from alberta, bc, etc. The first one that catches my eye says about her being a noted clarivoint in alberta.

About 2 years before this I had a recurring dream that I hadn't had since I was a child that ended up happening in real life exactly how I had dreamed that following year. It was this experience that first sparked an awareness that prophecy really does exist.

So as soon as I saw the article I decided to ask her take on my dream and I said "Laura, I have a question for you" and She said "I Know, that's why I brought you here. You want to know about your prophetic dreams" She continued to explain that we ALL have a spiritual puberty from age 0-3or4 where we dream our whole life and then purposely forget it so it can be somewhat spontaneous. But in some instances we need to be reminded about important parts so we make the right decisions and these glimpses come in the form of dreams or dejavu.

She also told me that her father was a police officer and that he was severely abusive.

Meeting her that day, the way it all happened was the most intensely shocking supernatural experience I've had to this day. It still sends shivers up my spine when I think about it. It also opened my eyes to things that I wasn't aware of that have protected me since then.

Needless to say, I've only seen her a handful of times since, but she's definitely had a profound influence on my life.

January 16, 2012 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Ann Brown said...

I met her yesterday. She had an impact on me too.

October 5, 2012 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Stospec said...

Hi Steve,

Laura-Kay Prophet has a new duck, Bobbie III. She is a beautiful lady still doing "Duck $oup". Her video on YouTube is Vancouver Duck Lady. In the video, you can see "Duck $oup" and Bobbie I's miracle, crying tears. I put her on Facebook, Laura-Kay Prophet, so people can see some of her fame and information on her Incredible Ducks.


January 7, 2013 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger M said...

This is so great!

December 19, 2015 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger M said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

December 19, 2015 at 6:08 PM  

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