1.10.2018

Florida's Return

I love to run, and I run to live. Every time that I'm jammed up a bit for a new idea on a work of fiction or I'm stumped on a course of action concerning our family, I find comfort in the simple activity of getting out into the jungle and pounding up and down these trails.

When we built our new house, proximity to various hiking trails and parks was a major factor in selecting a site. Our location adds so much to our quality of life, and I'm thankful that these trails and pathways are well-maintained and open to the public. 

I hit a run first thing yesterday morning and I could immediately tell that the weather was warming by the number of spiderwebs I traipsed through at eye level at the Jacksonville Arboretum. The first person out every day, unfortunately, has to blaze that trail. 

Yesterday, it was me, and it's not a task that I enjoy at all.

Three years ago, I was running the Live Oak Trail at the Arboretum. I was almost finished when I crashed through a huge web. It was like headbutting a cheese cloth, and I yipped and swiped at it and tossed my hat down on the ground. That sucker was dry and sticky and gross.

I thought I'd cleared it all off when, maybe two minutes later (out of the clear blue sky), I felt the agony of all agonies on the back of my neck. It felt like I had been stabbed, and that wasn't much off because, when I put my hand back there to see what had assaulted me, my fingers came away bloody.

Uh, seeping bloody wound in the Florida jungle? Yeah, I freaked out. 

Almost immediately, my neck swelled up like a pack of hotdogs. I made a beeline for the truck to inestigate my injury and, sure enough, it was bad. There were two neat little holes at the base of my hairline, each trickling a thin line of watery blood.

I got home, my head and neck on fire and the skin of my face tingling, and I took a cold shower and iced the wound. I had to work that afternoon, you see, and I was hoping it would resolve itself before I had to meet my students with a neck the size of a life jacket. 

Then, the old writer's psyche in and I thought of all of the worst possibilities.

Paralysis. Skin loss. Zombification.

The big dirt nap, of course...

I decided to drop by St. Vincent's ER, where they checked me in quickly and processed my co-pay (Yikes!). The doctors gathered around, chatting jovially and poking at the necrotic tissue that was already forming there on my neck. They were loving it! I guess they don't see many spider bites, and I was a teachable case. I swear, a dozen doctors and nurses came by to comment on the injury.

They gave me a topical antibiotic and told me what to expect and they said that it wasn't that big of a deal--just a nasty Florida spider bite. 

I still don't know what zapped me that day, but yesterday I saw a meaty spider just dangling there in the path. It was the size of a hummingbird (at least), and it was just floating there on the breeze.

Waiting patiently.

I dodged it and I couldn't help but wonder if it was one of its cousins that had sent me scrambling to the ER all those years ago...

We had a rough couple of cold weeks, to be sure, but the insects and reptiles are back on the move--a couple of tell-tale signs that life on the peninsula is getting back to normal...

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