Merry, Merry Month

To every season, there is a thing...

illustration by brad fitzpatrick

Courtesy of the vagaries of global warming, we were spared a winter like the infamous one of 2014-2015 (when, by the end of the season, Ma Nature had dumped 92 inches of snow on us). 

And here we are, in glorious May. The grass grows, and the wildflowers. Birds are mating, peepers peeping, coyotes singing, and next year’s cordwood is delivered and stacked in the back yard. All’s right with the world.

But wait! May brings us allergies — all kinds of grass and tree pollens, and God knows what else, driving up the stock of tissue makers.

Then there’s all that stuff we have to put on to protect ourselves from black flies, mosquitoes and ticks: light-colored trousers tucked into socks, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts tucked in at the waist, and bug dope slathered on clothing gaps and daubed on exposed flesh. Every year, when black flies are at their thickest and most frenzied, if I expect to survive a walk in the woods, I have to worm into my Bugbaffler Insect Protective Hooded Shirt — thinking, every time, of Wade Hemsworth’s song, “The Black Fly”:

And the black flies, little black flies

Always the black flies no matter where you go ...

They’re swimmin’ in the soup, swimmin’ in the tea

The devil take the black flies, let me be ...

And of course, now that New Hampshire, proud to be first in anything we can be first in, boasts New England’s highest rate of Lyme disease, there’s the tedious daily ritual of checking, inch by inch, all that light-colored clothing (don’t forget those inside seams), looking for those little buggers the size of a bloody poppy seed (nymph) or sesame seed (adult).

And still we’re not done. Every single night, we have to enlist a Loved One to check our backs and even to check our — well, you know — before we get in the shower to scrub down (the hair! the hair!). And should we find (heaven forfend!) that poppy-seed beast already screwed in, sucking away, we have to carefully pull it out, drop it into a suitable container (like an old pill bottle) and send it, along with five bucks, to UNH’s entomologist, Alan Eaton. And until we hear from Alan, we have to watch for the telltale red ring, though that appears in only about half the cases.

But just around the time I’m half-longing for bug-free winter, the black flies peter out, the hermit thrush regales us in the gloaming and the fireflies wink their way around the back yard, and I figure there could be no better place to live.

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