Creative Humans
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Creative Humans

Winter, Shingles, A Writing Challenge, and A Duck Mystery

All Content by Dennett

The domestic duck couple

Winter arrived while I was sleeping. Well, sort of.

Not winter like the date on the calendar. Does winter ever pay attention to that date? And, not winter like up north — you know, any place above Georgia. Winter, as in, it got chilly in Florida. We went from an October summer day to a winter morning overnight. 85 degrees one day and 48 degrees the next morning.

And, I was sleeping — a lot — due to shingles. Are you familiar with those little blister bastards? Wouldn’t wish them on anyone but Donald Trump.

I am now into my third week of shingle suffering. I’ve had worse pain but never pain that could manifest itself in so many ways, one after another after another, without warning. The stabbing and shooting and deep tissue aching pains have subsided. Now, I have the ceaseless itching with some burning thrown in for balance.

For two weeks, I simply tried to prevent myself from ripping off my skin with my well-manicured fingernails. I tried using anti-itch medications that did nothing to prevent itching and settled on taking pain pills that allowed me to sleep through the pain and itching and burning. I have a theory that pain pills do not relieve pain; they only help you sleep through pain.

I missed a lot of life and work during those 14 days. Typically, I woke up an hour or so earlier than normal because the pain pill was wearing off and my skin was once again my enemy. Walking my dogs in the cool morning air — and cold morning air once 48 degrees arrived — was the best relief I had. After a mile or so, I was home and back in bed for a 3-hour nap. If work was necessary that day, I downed a coffee and some breakfast and went to a client’s office. One or two hours was the max I could give. Home for another dog walk and a nap of an hour or two. Then, to an afternoon client, if necessary. I might make it for 3 hours, maybe less. Home for a third nap, another dog walk, dinner, maybe another nap, another dog walk, and sleep. Yes, winter arrived while I was sleeping or maybe, napping.

All that time at home was perfect for creativity, particularly writing. Except, I didn’t care. Sure, I wrote a little but it was a chore. My creativity was being smothered by shingles. And, I sunk in a deep funk. Well, a deeper funk than the one I’ve been in since November 8, 2016.

The sound of depressing news — Is there any other kind these days? — seeped beneath the bedroom door. What had seemed distressing and dreadful for two years was now disastrous and wretched. I pulled the covers over my head and slept.

I also wallowed in personal misery — missing my grandchildren so badly that the deep ache of wanting them here was rivaling my shingles. My dreams were peppered with bad, sad, and depressing memories excavated from the long landscape of my life.

I began Lindsay Linegar’s new challenge — 103 Days of Writing — on October 15th, a few days before shingles appeared. I tried to continue writing for the challenge but day after day was marked as a “Sick Day” rather than a productive writing day. I dumped the challenge after the first week.

This past Wednesday, I was feeling considerably better and worked a total of 6 hours before coming home to walk dogs. As Sophie, Syau and I strolled by the manmade lake across the street, I noticed the white male domestic duck was alone, honking loudly, walking about aimlessly. He and his mate are the only domestic ducks in our neighborhood. Both have clipped wings, preventing flight. Unlike the Muscovy, Mallard, and black-bellied whistling ducks, the domestic whites stay at the smaller lake, never trying to cross the street to reach the larger lake that meanders behind our home. A couple who lives on the manmade lake take care of the domestic whites, although it is unclear if they actually brought the ducks to the lake or simply inherited them.

I looked around the lake and didn’t see the female white. Worried, I kept walking with my dogs, searching the neighborhood to see if she wandered from the lake and from her mate. We crossed over the street and came up the opposite sidewalk that leads to our home. A long stretch of that sidewalk is bordered by a wooded area that leads down to our lake.

In the woods, I spotted something white. There was the female duck. She was about six yards from the sidewalk and appeared to be unable to move. Vines were all around her, making me wonder if she was trapped in the forest growth or if an injury kept her captive.

I hurried home with Syau and Sophie and grabbed Ben, some towels and a blanket. As we approached the area where I saw the duck, we saw Joanne, a neighbor who looks after the ducks in the neighborhood, often nursing those with injuries. She was over at the lake looking anxiously around. I knew she, too, was worried about the male duck’s loud honks.

I motioned to Joanne and she came across the street. After showing her the female duck deep in the woods, the three of us tried to figure a way to get through the thick underbrush to reach her. Joanne is not young but not as old as Ben or me and even she was reluctant to climb through the thick undergrowth. She walked to her house to get a net.

Ben was frantic about the duck and didn’t want her trapped for a moment longer than necessary. He broke vines and branches as he worked his way through the thick brush, stepping gingerly on the mucky ground that sunk beneath his footsteps.

Amazingly, he was able to gently lift the duck, unraveling the vines and brambles that were wrapped around her legs and body, and cover her with a towel. She tried to flap her wings a few times in protest, fear, or frustration but soon settled against his chest. As Ben climbed up to the sidewalk with me reaching down to grab and pull him and the duck forward, Joanne arrived.

Joanne used her cell to call the couple who have the closest claim on the domestic ducks. Joanne and I stopped traffic as Ben walked across the street, trying to keep the duck quiet as she wiggled and flapped anxiously. We walked around the perimeter of the lake to meet the couple. As Ben laid her down on the ground near their patio, the duck tried to walk, falling flat on her chest, her legs buckling beneath her. We saw no signs of injury, no blood, no broken bones. Had she been hit by a car surely there would be noticeable wounds. We were all perplexed. The couple thanked us profusely and said they would take it from there.

Ben and I parted ways with Joanne and walked home, worried and exhausted. I nearly passed out on our bed, realizing how physically and emotionally draining the experience was. My shingles were screaming in protest of the unusual activity and stress.

Since Wednesday, we hear the mournful honks of the male white. He doesn’t seem to recognize the sick or injured duck in the fenced yard as his mate. He continues to pace the lake on foot or swim in circles, calling and calling for her.

The Muscovies, who rarely interact with the whites and spend most of their time at our lake, gathered on the manmade lake this weekend, swimming with the white male and sleeping with him on the shore at night. They appear to be comforting him.

I saw Joanne tonight and she said that, in spite of no definite diagnosis, the female duck is improving. She has no injuries — her legs just don’t want to work as they should. With massage therapy and a good diet, she is about 50 percent better than she was Wednesday night. Her mate still does not recognize her. Even when he was taken into the fenced yard to be with her, he cried loudly at the gate to leave and returned to the lake with his new Muscovy friends. We still have no idea how she got across the street and if she crossed on her own, why, or how she got so deep in the woods. What she experienced is as much as mystery as her condition.

So, as you see, I am writing — a sign of recovery. My funk hasn’t left but takes a break every now and then, giving me the opportunity to feel slightly human again. And, I am thinking about the 103 Days of Writing Challenge that was torpedoed by my illness. I may almost have enough energy, mental clarity, and emotional stability to tackle it again but with changes.

My challenge will be:

61 Días de Los Reyes Reto

Huh, you ask?

61 Days of the Kings Challenge

Why 61? Well, my birthday is November 6th so I considered that to be a good launch day. And, 103 days was too ambitious because it would land smack-dab in my 7-days-a-week work schedule that goes from January through mid-March.

Why Dias de Los Reyes? In my Hispanic family, January 6th (Three Kings Day or Dia De Los Reyes in Spanish) is the last day of the Christmas season and although I’ll already be in my 7-days-a-week work mode, I won’t be too deep into IRS hell, and figure that is a good day to end my challenge. I also like the idea of using the name Dia De Los Reyes for my personal challenge. And, it is 61 days from November 6th to January 6th. Tada!

But, I’m not done creating yet! When I started the 103 Days of Writing Challenge, I found just grabbing something to write about every day was difficult — well, more like, unsettling. I needed an anchor for the writing. And, my anchor will be — photography!

My goal will be to write about a photo every day — I hope a new photo that I take that same day but an old shot is okay, too — any photo of mine that inspires me to write.

Now, I am tired. Very tired.

Need to rest up before 61 Días de Los Reyes Reto starts on Tuesday!



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I was always a writer but lived in a bookkeeper’s body before I found Medium and broke free — well, almost. Working to work less and write more.