Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring In Duckville

Hi Folks!

Thanks for stopping by! As I write this, the sun is shining, the weather is balmy, and the crocuses have come out to say hello. It appears that spring has indeed sprung!

I've been waiting for warmer weather for a couple of reasons: first and foremost, because winter sucks! I don't like being cold, and I really hate the fact that it gets dark at five in the afternoon. Winter days are so cold, short, and forbidding that it's almost not worth getting out of bed!

The other big reason I've been impatient for winter to end is that I hadn't been to the Mitchell's to see Ducky and Puddleduck since November. Pat and I have emailed back and forth through the winter months, and she's kept me up to date on the ducks' activities, but it's not the same as actually visiting. Believe it or not, I've missed those two!

Pat told me that they spent the vast majority of their time huddled in the garage keeping warm. Neither one was inclined to venture outside much. I think the cold bothered both ducks, as they each have leg issues and probably arthritis as well. Pat said it was pointless to visit until spring, when they'd be out in the yard more, so I stayed away all winter. The two ducks were never far from my mind, though.

When decent weather finally hit, a few weeks ago, I decided to take a walk at the nature preserve. Driving by Pat's house on the way there, I found her out raking leaves in her yard. Impulsively, I pulled into the driveway and said hello. We chatted for a bit, then she invited me to head out back to see the ducks.

As always after a span of time has elapsed between visits, I wondered whether Ducky would remember me. Let's face it - they've got pretty small brains, right? And most critter brains focus exclusively on eating, mating and staying alive. So where does "visit Kelly" fall on a duck's list of priorities? Your guess is as good as mine.

I hadn't even closed the latch on the gate before I got my answer: here came Ducky, walking my way and greeting me with his usual, "duck, duck, duck." Seriously, that's what ducks sound like when they're muttering. It's a sound I became quite familiar with, the times when Pretty Boy recuperated in my bathroom, and it's a sound I find amusing: I don't know what they're saying when they mutter like that, but it's clear that they've got something important on their minds!

So before I'd gotten all the way through the back gate, Ducky had recognized my voice, calling my usual hearty greeting, "Ducky! There's my pal!" and had come over to say hello. I can't tell you how heart-warming it is know that I've made enough of an impression on Ducky - and Puddleduck, who came over to greet me as well - that there's room to remember me in their small duck brains. We had a brief visit, in which I promised to bring snacks the next time I came, and then I made my way to the nature preserve for that walk I'd planned on.

Ducky's recognition of me put me in a happy frame of mind for the rest of the day. It was one thing to know that they were well-looked-after by the Mitchells, but it was quite another for me to be able to stroll onto their property after several months' absence, and be greeted by the ducks like a long lost friend. It never fails to amaze me!

As I was reflecting on my visit at the Mitchell's, and ducks in general (mating season is in full swing now at McKinnon's Pond), I realized with a start that it was a year ago this month that Pretty Boy was found dead. I recall telling you about it, and saying that one fine spring day, I would scatter his ashes at the pond he had spent his life on. I still haven't done it. For the last twelve months, the decorative tin that holds his ashes has remained in the same spot on my kitchen table, right next to the sage green casserole dish with the rabbit-shaped lid.

Knowing that I'd be writing about this, I gave some thought to why I never scattered the ashes as I said I would. I came to the conclusion that it would've been more permanent an act than I'm ready for. In some inexplicable way, as long as I leave that tin of ashes on the table, I don't have to face the awful permanence of Pretty Boy's death. I know there's no logic in that, but that's how grief is.

It's worth noting that, in the year since my favorite duck's death, I've yet to receive a bill for his cremation. Clearly, Pretty Boy touched more lives than just mine in his short time on earth!

Mitigating my sorrow has been the irrepressible Ethel Duck, who runs to greet me every single time I'm at the pond. She visits the longest, eats the most, and trusts me more than any of the others. Her cheerful nature makes up for many things: cold winter weather, wind chills, rainy days, and, in a small way, the loss of the World's Greatest Duck. I'm happy to report that Ethel's companion, Big Boyfriend Duck, is still with her. They've been together over three years, now, and they're still monogamous!

So there are highs and lows for me right now: pleasant visits with Ethel at the pond, and Ducky and Puddleduck at the Mitchells, but also a lingering twinge of sadness at the loss of that wonderful duck. If there is indeed a heaven, Pretty Boy is no doubt waddling around the front gate, waiting for me and muttering, "duck, duck, duck!"

That's all for now, folks! While you're waiting for my next blog entry, please check out my Youtube page (enter Crazy Critter Lady in the Youtube search engine) - I've got several videos posted already, with more to come soon. One of these days, I'm going to get Ethel on video and make her cheery smile world-famous! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Older Than I Want To Be

Hi Folks!

Welcome back! I hope you've all managed to dig yourselves out from under all that snow! Spring is in sight, now, so we just need to hang in there a little longer!

I debated whether or not to blog about the subject I'm going to write about today. It has nothing to do with animals - which, as you may have guessed from the "Kelly's Critter Talk" name, is what I usually write about. But there was a Thing that happened yesterday, and I have a hard time passing up opportunities to write about Things, so I hope you'll bear with me, and I promise I'll get back to blogging about critters in the near future!

I went to my very first rock concert when I was 18. It was the Rolling Stones, and I sold my beat-up Gremlin with the radiator leak to pay for the tickets. I took my buddy Sandy Winscott with me - she was almost as big a Stones fan as I was - and we mooched a ride up to Detroit with a couple of guys we knew from high school, Dan and Dave. We all smoked some dope during the drive, drank some beers when we got there, and generally had a fine time, even though the Stones '81 tour would later be remembered as one of their most lackluster performances on record. But hey, it was the Stones: we were practically breathing the same air, so who cared if they weren't quite up to snuff?

We were young, then. Dumb. Innocent. We all had a lot of learning to do, and we all had hard times ahead of us that we couldn't possibly have anticipated at such a dopey age. Twenty-nine years later, Dan's a good-lookin' lawyer type in Cincinnati, Dave's heart is shredded from too much steroid use in the '80's - or so I hear, and Sandy's down in Florida with the old folks (not that there's anything wrong with that!). As for me, I've gained 20 pounds in the intervening years, and hopefully a little wisdom, as well. Some days, it's hard to tell!

So this concert came to my attention a few months ago. Three bands were scheduled: 38 Special, Styx, and REO Speedwagon, all on one ticket. All three had their heydays back in the '70's, but all three continue to draw crowds to this day and, in fact, they managed to sell out the brand new arena in Whoville for the first time since it opened last year. Not bad for a bunch of old guys!

Since fiance John has been a professional musician for 30 years - his specialty is searing guitar licks on his Strat - I asked whether he'd be interested in attending the concert. He immediately went on-line and got us a couple of decent seats, and we went last night.

As a writer, I'm always looking at the details that no one else pays attention to. I was having a field day with my people-watching as we made our way through the arena to our seats. Wide-eyed with wonder, I noticed that the place was full of baby boomers: middle-aged men and women with paunches, saddle bags, dyed hair, no hair. "Man, look at all the old folks," I said under my breath. I was starting to feel like a kid by comparison, until I realized that most of them weren't much older than me, and that I'm catching up pretty damn fast!

So I don't know why I was surprised to find that all three bands were fronted by white-haired men. Even Kevin Cronin's dark, curly, uber-70's mane had been replaced by a bleached-blonde buzz-cut. All the bands played well, and Cronin's voice, in particular, was in fine form, but where had the time gone? How was it that I - the skinny little Stones fan from just a few years ago - was now sharing audience space with a bunch of folks on the cusp of geezerhood, cheering on bands full of guys who have probably already had their first colonoscopies? WTF???

The problem is that I have this unfortunate telescoping memory, in which things that seem to have happened a few short years past actually took place decades ago. I understand - on some vague, intellectual level - that Sandy Winscott and I haven't partied together in almost three decades, but it seems more like just a few years ago. Most things that happened in the ensuing years feel that same way. Jimmy Buffet concert (1988)? A few years ago. Divorce (1991)? A few years ago. First trip to London (1995)? A few years ago. It's a strange repository for all my memories, whether I want them there or not.

I read recently that Journey's Steve Perry has had hip-replacement surgery. So this is what we've come to.

It's going to sound more than a little naive when I say that I didn't realize we were all going to get old. Seriously. My ability to conceptualize the aging process breaks down somewhere in the 30's. That is to say, I was never able to imagine life after 30-something. If you held a gun to my head, I still wouldn't be able to conjure an image of Sandy Winscott as anything other than how I remember her at 18. The same goes for all of my high school chums.

The fact that those chums now have children of their own - some in college, no less! - is beyond anything I can fathom. We weren't supposed to get old. We weren't supposed to fall apart, get flabby, get serious, get staid and boring. We were supposed to be ageless, timeless, somehow, and rule the world while we were at it. I'm not laughing as I write that. In fact, tears have come to my eyes at the sudden awareness that life is not going to be those things for us. We're not going to be the exception to the rules; we're stuck being mere mortals like everyone else.

How depressing.

And so I found myself, in the midst of a really good concert last night, vacillating between my pleasure in the moment, and my anguish at realizing that Sandy and I will never be dope-smoking young hoodlums again, that the things Leslie and I laughed about probably aren't funny anymore. That laughing with Dawn will never happen again because she died last year from breast cancer at the age of 46.

There will continue to be private agonies for me, as time goes by and some of the things I really wanted in life - things I had counted on happening, assumed would happen, probably never will. Every day, it seems, some of my hopes and dreams die small, quiet deaths as I become a middle-aged stranger in my own life. While I'm starting to look every inch of my 47 years, I certainly don't feel it: when the Stones come on the radio, I still crank the volume, every time. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" just never gets old!

In the midst of all this introspection, I'm pleased to report that REO Speedwagon played one of my all-time favorite songs last night. It's a song I've used over the decades to rally myself in times of hopelessness and despair. When I play it, I'm reminded that there are still possibilities. For those of you who need the same reminder, I offer the lyrics now for your consideration:

I used to be lonely, til I learned about living alone.
I found other things to keep my mind on.
And I'm gettin' to know myself a little bit better.
I keep pushin' on.
Goin' through all the changes, I made so many mistakes,
trying to leave behind the heartaches.
And sometimes I think I was a little bit crazy.
I keep pushin' on.
Well, it's comin' together, I finally feel like a man.
I never thought that I'd be where I am.
Every day I wake a little bit higher.
I keep pushin' on.
Keep pushin', keep pushin', keep pushin' on.
You know you've got to be so strong.
Keep pushin', keep pushin', keep pushin' on.
Even if you think your strength is gone,
keep pushin' on.

- lyrics by Kevin Cronin

That's all for now, folks! Thanks so much for reading this entry anyway, even though there weren't any cats, ducks, or horses in it! I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for the next great animal story, so until then, please be kind to all the critters!

P.S. Hey, Sandy! Thanks for the memories!