I did a trek in the Amazon River basin in Ecuador in 2000. I bring that up because I’ve been thinking about it lately, in particular one moment when we made camp at the mosquito-netted banana wood platforms in the jungle, and I kicked off my shoes only to be chastised by the guide. Put them on, he said, or gestured, rather, as he didn’t speak much English and my Spanish was pretty much limited to asking for another beer or the location of the bathroom, which did not help very much out there in the woods.
What he meant was: there are creepy crawlies, all manner of them, so for God’s sakes cover up your toes. You’d think the snakes bottled in Formaldehyde at our previous night’s rustic lodge would have smartened me up but that was me in my 20s: a daredevil.
That jungle reminds me of this jungle.
And by jungle I mean the wilderness surrounding our house on the outskirts of The Pas, Manitoba.
No, we don’t have sloths napping in our willow trees but in the evening and at dawn the sounds of the hundred species of birds in the wetland at the end of our backyard is a cacophony. Throw in the frogs and insect noises and I’m as close as I’ve ever been before to the night hike I took during that jungle excursion when a huge moth swept its soft wing across my cheek and scared the crap out of me.
There is something about nature pressing in on you. Something unsettling.
For example, in recent days, crane flies have been hatching. At first I thought they were a sort of giant mosquito but they don’t bite. Instead, they are simply, um, really, really over-enthusiastic.
When we take our dog Mowat out in the early morning and evening hours, they are there. A kerbillion (is there a higher number?) of them, swarming with the sound of an angry hive, clouding around our bodies, and completely, utterly distracting Mowat from the task at hand. In order to escape, we walk through the wooded thicket at the back of our yard to get to the open trail along the wetland. But guess what’s living in the woods? Ticks. One has been found in Mowat’s ear. And, dear reader, feel for me because I’ve already pinched two of them out of my hair.
We’ve identified these as wood ticks and NOT the kind that carry Lyme Disease but STILL.
My husband says this is not a big deal. He shrugs and tells me he had hundreds of ticks, regularly dug them out of his flesh, as a child playing in the fields of Iowa. But for me, this is nightmare-ish. Despite the thrill of seeing trumpeter swans and herons and sandhill cranes and ducks we can’t even identify, I find I dream of city. Pavement. Skies free of clouds of diaphanous, delicate winged things attempting to funnel as one up my nose. And a definite absence of ticks. Did you know they are arachnids? Tiny spiders intent on burrowing into your skin…
Shudder. No: SHUDDER.
And the crazy part: this is only the beginning. The mosquitoes are coming. Watch out for the spruce beetles, I’ve been told. And up here deer flies are affectionately nick-named ‘bull dogs’. Anyone have a suit of armour for sale?