A little in the life

Before reading this, I must caution those who are duck sympathizers or apologists. This article may offend you. I have no sympathy for the muscovy. Especially when they begin attacking innocent humans. Yes, the case could be made that no humans are innocent, however, in this particular case, I don’t care.

It began more than a month ago. The large waddling creature I took for a regular duck, a bit on the homely side, appeared more aggressive than the others. He waddled up the hill along Sager Creek at the south side of the library as if he thought I had bread crumbs or crackers.

Nevermind it was 7 A.M. and I was on my way to work. The duck probably just wanted to be fed, I thought. Though there was something a bit more to his movements. A jerky belligerence, as if he were proving a thing. I quickened my step making it past him and to the other side of the road. I looked back and saw he had stopped at the curb, still watching.

The second time was approximately two weeks ago. The duck was in the yard of the Masonic temple that sat above Sager Creek, south of the library.

Walking to work again, I saw him as I stepped from the gravel walkway and into the road bordering the asphalt path that runs along the creek. This is part of the Dogwood Trail. A public access trail for bicycling and pedestrian traffic. It runs twenty-something miles around Siloam Springs and is used frequently. Siloam Springs could be said to be one of the walkable friendly zones in the United States. The trails border creeks, run through parks, through eye-popping landscapes and provide a challenge to even the most athletic of us. This part of the trail begins a run north-south along Sager Creek, through Bob Henry Park.

I noticed him because he made a show of it. Ducks don’t usually appear to run at a person, but this one was quite showy. Head up, neck stretched out, legs carrying him quickly across the lawn of the Masonic lodge, appearing more to swagger than waddle. I stopped in the middle of the road. There was no traffic this early in the morning so I wasn’t worried, but I did wonder what this crazy duck was up to.

Did he think I had food? What was he doing?

When he was within a couple yards of me, I feigned left, he turned and I ran to the right attempting to avoid him. He quickly corrected and stuck his neck out even further, hissing while I jumped and ran past him. Though he didn’t pursue, I thought it odd he would go to those lengths–actually run across the lawn to confront me.

Did he think I was invading his territory?

While considering, I came to the realization that this could not be true. The average daily traffic along the trail is dense. This part of the trail is traveled by children walking to and from school daily. Adults bicycling, local athletes.

The last attack occurred two days ago (4/18).

As I stepped on to the path behind the Mason lodge and noticed him heading in my direction. He had begun to run and I estimated the distance between the path and his direction to it. I thought I could sprint past him without effort.

Another muscovy nearby raised its head and began flapping his wings.

I ran down the path and almost immediately the duck heading in my direction changed his course. Instead of heading straight for me across the grass, he headed for the asphalt.

“No!” I thought. How could he know to head me off?

Fear took hold. I could hear his brief exhalations. Hissing. His body was not just wagging from side to side, it was tipping with the extra effort he put into the run.

A sound of frustration escaped me as I poured on extra effort. I moved past him, barely. He still came and did not stop until I was on the other side of the street. Then he stopped and watched me for several moments.

Shaking, I stood and watched him across the expanse of asphalt until he turned and waddled back to his friends, who swayed their heads from side to side, making strange noises akin to acknowledgement (Right on Brother! You got that human on the run!)

That night after work I told my daughter about the experience. She suggested I do a google search. “Can ducks get rabies?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I grumbled.

I googled ‘Aggressive ducks’, then ‘duck attack’ and came up with several photos of my attacker, or what looked very close to him. The muscovy duck.

This duck is not like other ducks. It is not related to the mallard, but evolved from a different branch. It sports large webbed talons, grows to about fifteen pounds and is incredibly intelligent compared to other birds. Unfortunately, on occasion it also becomes aggressive.

There was one report about a muscovy attacking a ninety-one year old man in the park with his grandson. A woman reported a muscovy flying upon her head and pecking at her face, tearing at her sweater.

That night Tania and I walked to the creek trying to find where the duck and his cronies were laying up. One of the articles said that muscovies sleep near water, though they are not really water fowl.

We found six of them laying along the edge of the creek. He stood on a large rock watching without making any aggressive move toward us.

The next day after work Tania and I found him behind the Masonic temple again. The video below shows a little, but we’re going to work at improving the quality of documenting this bird’s strange behavior.

Tania was laughing in the video, because we were actually prepared for this. I brought pepper spray (just in case) and she stayed far enough away to avoid him.

Anyway, we have picked out a name for him and future videos will dub him Danger Duck or D.D.

Writing against the odds

clock I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because perfection takes work and mental resources are at low tide.

A light blue sky emerged from the dawn with a white moon, hanging like a powdered donut above Siloam Springs. At 8 A.M. Late August, an occasional school bus drives by, traffic passes in increments. A dribble that eventually transforms into a river along Hwy 412.

The curb I sit on frames the parking lot of the restaurant where I’m employed. Next door is another, where they serve much of the same type of fast food, but promote it as being fresher and healthier.
The occasional bus has turned into a caravan absent children.

The restaurant gig is something I took to pay rent. I don’t kid myself into believing that one day my work will be noticed and I’ll never have to work customer service or worry about repeated burn injuries again. In all honesty, there are many decent writers in the world who never get noticed. There are many bad ones who do. I’m not sure which is more tragic.

The business of writing is a tough one—I’ve said this too many times to count—but the reality of this hits home when you use small blocks of time to get anything written. The thirty minutes before clock-in, a thirty minute lunch break. Then there are those days you’re so exhausted you can’t think, much less write. Or your pen runs out of ink while on break and you don’t have enough time to go find another.

Regardless of the odds, most writers continue to write. I do. Of course, I’ve also quit in frustration. I’ve told myself I’m done with this, but have always come back with equal frustration in not writing.

I think the most difficult part in all this is trying to find the time and energy to keep writing. I want to write at least a thousand words a day, but am falling a bit short of that. I write when I can and that means, even when I’m exhausted, my back aches, my feet burn and I would much rather crawl into bed for the much needed rest.

I’ve had a few of those days lately. When I didn’t write, because I just couldn’t push myself mentally any further, but this past week, has been better. I wrote a short story in two days and this blog post. My novel is waiting my attention, but I don’t (yet) have the stamina to tackle that job. I’ll have to harness a bit more mental acuity before I get back to that.

So, for those readers who find themselves in similar situations, how do you find the time and energy to continue? Is there a magic pill? Perhaps a particular exercise? Meditation?

Inquiring minds want to know…

Moontrails and Doubt

moontrail There’s no doubt about it, writing is tough. But to get technical about it, it’s not so much the writing that’s so hard, but at times, finding the motivation and the perseverance to get through each project.

After many years, you no longer expect fanfare, nor an unexpected financial glut; however, it’s nice to have support, even if it’s an occasional pat on the back by family members. A kind word by people you expect to support you in life endeavors to say, “You can do it.”

Alas, that’s not the cards handed to many of us.

I had objections to the Kickstarter Project, because I knew after reading the list of winning traits of a project, I had a slim chance of meeting my goal. I’m not exactly a social butterfly. I don’t have a lot of followers, nor do I have the skills to create that winning video that so much attention is focused on.

My youngest daughter, Gloria urged me on. (She is one of my supporters). “Mom, you can at least try. Can’t get anywhere if you don’t try.”

So I did. It’s kind of like the idea of winning the lottery, right? You can’t win if you don’t play.

I have to say that throughout these past few weeks, I haven’t been too surprised to find friends and family members have become eerily silent. Especially, when asked to share a link to the project.

Despite this, a few high points. First, that people who don’t know me in real life, actually had enough faith in my work to become backers. [For those who did: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Even if the project is a complete (epic) failure, I appreciate this gesture more than you could ever know.]

Second, that I have learned a good deal about these types of projects. Primarily, that in crowdsourcing/funding you must have many followers and supporters who are willing to share your information with others.

There have been a couple of people who have helped with this. It may not seem like much to some, but to authors needing encouragement, sharing a link, or mentioning our work to anyone, is enough to keep us moving forward. Though we would appreciate the people we love to show a bit more faith in us, some of us understand their lack of enthusiasm in our struggles.

For those who don’t support family (or long-time friend) author/artist, I have written a poem for you.

 

Ode to the Doubters

Oh you, who have sat
on haunches,
twenty years, thirty
Nary a creative thought.

Looking through dirty glasses,
down noses, making judgments
How he should be,

what she should wear.
Brighten your day with
understanding.

Know his word,
her voice, or image
will move, 
into the future
long after you
are buried
gone
forgotten.

Photo credit: Moontrail by Emilio Robert Vicol

Writer’s Life #4 – Hecht and the presumption of values

It would seem rational that any creature capable of feeling, contemplating, and praising kindness would in fact be extraordinarily kind, but we are not. We may strive for true altruism, pure love, and total clarity, yet we can not possess these ultimate virtues; for some this suggests that the ultimate virtues exist elsewhere. –from Doubt, by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

typewriter-md As well written and educated as she is, you would think a scholar such as Jennifer Michael Hecht would refrain from making blanket statements she attributes to the whole of humanity.

At the end of her first statement here (above): “It would seem rational that any creature capable of feeling, contemplating, and praising kindness would in fact be extraordinarily kind, but we are not…”

Obviously she is not speaking for herself. She includes all of us when she says, “…we are not.”

Many people are not kind. But many are. Some of us attempt to cultivate kindness, though many times there are days we fall short. It’s like the idea of happiness. You see people taking happiness tests to determine how happy they are. Then come the suggestions: get a dog, a boyfriend, join a church. Then you’ll be more happy.

Unfortunately, life is not so simple. Happiness is not a constant, like hair, or eye color. Yes, we can have days in which we feel happier than others, but it is fleeting, like any mood. We can have a generally happy outlook on life, but we cannot maintain “happy” all the time. Though kindness is more trait than mood, it’s difficult to maintain constantly. Then again, I’m speaking for myself. In general, I like to think most people have some value of kindness they cultivate toward their human family.

She is right in that we strive for virtues [Def.: virtues: ideals of goodness]. We don’t always achieve them, because they are ideals. Ideals, we may never be able to live up to fully, but mentally present for us to cling to. They do not exist upon a higher plane for many of us. They are modes of conduct–perhaps codes–which we build our lives around. When making the statement that we can not possess (meaning to own?) the virtues, I cannot fully agree, depending on how the term ‘possess’ is being used.

We may not own those virtues individually, but as one of the higher forms of intellect on this planet, we have the power of choice and reason. Humans have the ability to choose how they behave toward one another, other beings and the environment.

Do we wake thinking, “how can I be kind or fair toward my fellow beings today?”

Probably not. But in our interactions with one another, we can note how we’re feeling and thinking and moderate our behaviors with those things in mind. We all have that potential. I think part of exploring the human condition is developing the potential we have within ourselves. But like everything we do in our lives, these are individual choices.

If we want a fairer world, I believe we have to make our own little corner of the universe fairer in the way we deal with others. Just because life is not fair, does not mean it’s okay to behave unfairly toward others. Or, a better example: because a thief steals your car, does not make it okay for you to steal your neighbor’s.

As far as those virtues existing “elsewhere”, as Hecht writes, I believe she is speaking for herself. I don’t have an Elsewhere. I do have a mind that holds those values clearly, though I don’t always behave in a fashion that upholds those values. And when I don’t, I have a loud guilty conscious (in the voice of my father, grandmother or HH the Dali Lama) that lets me know immediately what I could have done better.

But of course, all of the above is my own interpretation of life and the mind. I just don’t want anyone (presumably) speaking for me.

 

Borges on Sunday – Writer’s Life #3

Jorge_Luis_Borges Sunday I did absolutely nothing (but write this).

I decided, at some point, that I would take a break from worries and writing. That my attention would not be riveted to the page or problems therein.

I slept, drank coffee (decaf), sat out on the porch and ruminated about Jorge Luis Borges. His writing seems to be a continual source of internal conflict for me.

I like his work, then I hate it. A profound sentence or passage is replaced with a paragraph that makes no sense. Some of his work, I have to admit, I just don’t get.

Perhaps there’s a point. But there really doesn’t seem to be, in many of his stories. There may be a conflict (there are many), but the climax, followed by the conclusion is missing. Many of his works just end in a death of someone, followed by a brief statement like, “…On the 2nd of April 1898, he died.”

I laugh as I write this, because I wonder what other writer could get away with this today and still be studied so earnestly? No one. Not a single author could get away with the crappy endings that JLB leaves us with. Not any popular authors. We would stop reading. That would be the end of our relationship with that particular writer. Adios Senor.

But there is something compelling in JLB’s stories. The Library of Babel is a spell upon the reader. There is a tendency to want to figure it out. To solve the riddle of the structure.

Jose Saramago, though a student of Borges, is not as difficult. This author pushes through the wall of contemporary expectation and says, “the hell with you all. I will write what I must.” Then he does.

But the writing style, we know from reading both authors is from another time. These authors are not easy reads.

I don’t read them for style, but more because that kernel of story I must acquire. I must know the TRUTH of the work. I need to get to the meat of it, rend it from the bones, take it into myself and understand.

At the end of Saramago’s Blindness, I was not so much satisfied with that rending, as in love with words again. The story was told and I was grateful for it, though it was not an easy journey getting to that point. I worked for the understanding I found there.

Borges is difficult and I want to go through all of his work. The local library has his complete collection; I know, because I asked them to order it and checked it out when it first came in.

But I cannot get through it in two weeks. I don’t know if I could get through it in a month. Not because I could not read through it, but because I would not be able to UNDERSTAND it in that time. I must have a year, I think. Maybe two.

To go through one story at a time and linger on each. Though that idea is a bit scary. Borges’s work has a haunting quality, that speaks a little of mental instability. Or, perhaps it’s that he unmoors my understanding of reality.

[An aside here] My brother was enthralled by H.P. Lovecraft
for awhile (many years ago). A friend of his ran across a book (of Lovecraft’s) that someone they knew attempted to burn.

So when I first heard the story, I thought it came from the annals of Lovecraftian fans, or was something the boys made up from their readings.

The friend was another Lovecraft fan. Someone else had told him about the Necronomicon and another (unnamed) book that was the REAL Necronomicon. It was said (by these several boys) that anyone who read through it became infected with madness. They would go insane, killing those around them, attempting to destroy the book; but somehow, no one was ever clear how exactly, the book came through it and moved along to its next victim.

So the idea was that the book was haunted by something otherworldly. Something strange, yet pervasive and on a mission to destroy humanity or the reality we have constructed.

My brother’s friend ended up possessing it, but the story about the book, by these other people had so cautioned them that no one was willing to open it, much less read it. By the time I heard about it, the book (conveniently?) had moved to someone else.

The point to this little aside, is this: Borges work could be maddening, I think. Perhaps not to the point of insanity, but something close. That to puzzle his work too much, too intensely in a short time, could be damaging in some way. That I would be left haunted by the tales without the satisfaction of understanding them.

I do not enjoy his work (much), but have a feeling I must understand it.

Saramago, though difficult, is not Borges. His style is unconcerned with the reader, but compared to Borges, his ideas float across our minds. They do not work their way into misunderstanding and leave us unmoored. We are on firm ground throughout.

Borges Collected Fictions sits on my kitchen table. I read one story at a time, linger a bit and read through the notes. I have read Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius three times, going on my fourth. I’m working on all the notes and doing the research to see what I’ve missed about this story. There’s something, not obvious about this story. A key to understanding it fully.

I’ll read it just one more time. To get to the point–or the meat–or the understanding. Or perhaps to just finally be able to let it go.

That’s how I spent my Sunday.