I experienced my first true existential crisis in early recovery. After removing my emotional substance crux, I was left with the horrifying prospect of ‘being’ without booze.
Re-learning how to be sober is sufficiently complex, let alone how ‘to be’ present and content. Philosophical musings are a scourge on the mind of a recovering addict just stirring from years of self-administered slumber. So, as I realistically assessed the potential of my metaphysical capacity, I thought it best to clamber out of the Ego and into the world of Withersdane – It’s at times such as these that the omnipresent sober living model breathes an almost tangible smugness.
As a Londoner, my contact with farmyard animals has been minimal, extensively micromanaged into what is essentially an HD viewing experience – with smell-o-vision. The words ‘duck’, or ‘ducking’, do crop up in my digital vernacular, but admittedly only through Apple’s futile energies to censor colourful language. So when, on one dreary winter’s night, I was asked to go ‘ducking’, I, quite obviously, sprung at the chance.
Things I never thought I’d be doing in recovery 101: Duck wrangling.
We are blessed, in sober living, to be within earshot and a short stroll from the Withersdane Hall farm. I pass the ducks each morning on my walk into work but, up until this point, hadn’t truly appreciated their existence, they were just always there, the hows or whys never crossed my mind.
Turns out ducks need waking from, and returning to, bed. Our ducks are also significantly larger than I had realised. Having never ventured near enough to notice, I had accepted the perspective of my vision and assumed they were, well, duck-sized.
Our farm volunteer, and my wrangling right-hand, Katie, informed me that these are a breed called Saxony. Described commonly as a ‘heavy duck’, the Saxony duck weighs in, on average, at 3kg, of these we have five. There are also two Indian Runners which, whilst standing erect like Penguins, run rather than waddle. It was our task, for this evening, to get all seven ducks to bed in the duck house.
It became immediately apparent why this job required two persons. A dark winter’s evening and seven fat and fast ducks to catch. In the ways of the millennials, we armed ourselves with iPhone, torch app on full, and set to our comprehensive strategy – one to run at said ducks, the other to light her way and block their escape.
Katie’s shrewd farmyard knowledge came into play, identifying an advantage over the Saxonys – they tend to topple over when startled. Determined to not be beaten by rotund waterfowl, Katie began the round-up dance – a staccato two-step with ambiguous lead.
Now, the word duck comes from Old English ‘dūce’ (diver), a derivative of the verb ‘dūcan’ (to duck). What followed was reminiscent of the childhood classic, stuck in the mud, where the ducks ran riot about our unsure footing on the soggy-bottomed mud-pen. Assuming a Haka-like stance Katie charged at the Saxonys. Her impending war cry being sufficiently alarming, ducks rolled, she whisked them up, one by one, placing them carefully into the duck house.
Then there were two.
The Indian Runners brought their own method of amusement. There’s something quite whimsical about an upright duck running at speed. Needless to say, my efficiency levels dropped once I let the hilarity of the situation overwhelm me and Katie had to make do with a strobe light emanating from my giggle-bobbing hand. Ever the professional, and not stooping to my emotional immaturity, Katie caught the last of the fowl and popped them to bed. As quickly as it had started, it had finished, and I was rather sad for it.
The major benefit in the exercise, for me, was in dispelling any dog-tired notions I had of having ‘nothing to do.’ Though I am in a particularly fortuitous situation here at Withersdane sober living, the practice of saying ‘yes’ to opportunity is something I will be employing more in future. Rather than overwhelming myself of thoughts beyond me, I’ve found more spiritually uplifting, morally grounding answers in the everyday mini-adventure.