I should have known better –I did know better, but I forgot. Unlike Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring that so infuriated 1913 Parisians, our rite of spring often creeps unnoticed from bush to grass –okay, it doesn’t creep exactly, it’s more of a dangle- but it nonetheless lands upon us unawares. And that’s the problem. At the slightest hint of sun, we emerge, blinking, from our winter hibernation and stumble along shrub-lit paths in hopes the forest is still there, untamed, and pollinating. Aye, there’s the rub: we forget that it has been preparing for us; needs us; wants us to forget the lessons we so painfully endured in seasons past. Samsara –that great chain of birth and death- can only continue if we forget. It depends on recalcitrance –on our naïve hope that, having passed the examination we once wrote, we can now forget its substance.
But sun and pollen do not forget, and each year, like new graduates, they bloat with ambition and career goals. Deer-infested forests await the influx of bleary eyed hominids bumbling along dimly remembered trails, now overgrown with the exuberance of Spring. They know, with the sure and certain education of aeons, that the traps are set; the Nets of Being have been hung. They know we will not remember them at first –or at least, in time…
I have to confess that when I peek through the dirty windows of my winter-worn house, I am excited by the colour green. True, the cedars and pines and everything that constitutes a boreal forest have been waving at me all along, but it is only with the return of virgin leaves that I am seduced into the elfin grots outdoors. It’s not that I am a fair-weather naturphile, you understand, but it does help -white rain has never been a charismatic draw for me.
So, a couple of weeks ago, in the existential throes of Retirement angst, I have to admit to a succumption (is that a word?) -I left the heated confines of my burrow and ventured into the Great Unknown and in my excitement, I inadvertently wandered onto a trail I had never tried before. Now it’s true that with age, comes a serendipitous veil that screens out non-essential trivia –memories, for example- but even the dog seemed lost. I never take that as a good sign.
The trail meandered capriciously in and out of forest and stream, unmarked for the most part except for tufts of fur and fewmets –my dog found those; I’m not a coureur des bois. At one stage, I even considered leaving Greteloid bread crumbs to help on the way back, but alas despite a meticulous search of my person, I could find only scraps of matted Kleenex, and they ran out after a few minutes.
I am yet to be convinced that leaving scraps of civilization is of much value for markage, but nonetheless, I suppose they –and my dog- contributed to our successful re-emergence near my car. And yet, for all that remembered fell clutch of circumstance, there was no wincing, nor crying aloud; no redemptive display of sun and sky, simply a tired sprint to the metal door and a whispered paean to whatever gods were out that day.
But I don’t think I was heard –or maybe Someone was angry about the Kleenex, because no sooner than I had returned to the safety of a mirror at home –I hate ‘hat-hair’- than I noticed I had acquired a guest. There, mid-loin, brazen as a blemish, I saw a tick, mid-burrow. I only noticed, because it was waving a couple of its legs at me in its frenzied efforts to tunnel unbeknownst towards my innards.
I’m sorry, but although there are few places I hold sacrosanct, anything inwards of my skin qualifies unconditionally. Nothing enters without my permission. And not only was the thing trying to steal past my defences with local anaesthetic, it was doing so in a location it knew perfectly well I would have trouble seeing –let alone reaching.
Every year I get a hopeful traveller or two that attempts to fool me, but every year I find them and remove them. I think the new generation of ticks is becoming more savvy, however. In the old days, it was a simple matter of reaching for the pliers –I used Vice grips once when I was on a sailboat- and extracting it like a sliver. Not for me are the more arcane methods my urban friends used to suggest like, oh, burning them with a cigarette, or freezing the outer ends with ice cubes. I suspect these items are more readily available to those more accustomed to a night-life to which I have never been attracted, but in the average non-smoking house whose fridge barely keeps the milk cold, I had to fall back on the old ways. And yet, the new tech-savvy breed of ticks has learned to break off at the slightest provocation leaving its mouth-parts fully engaged and buried beyond reasonable grasp. Even with my admittedly limited selection of tweezers, I had to admit defeat because I couldn’t twist my body enough to get a good look. Also, it hurt.
So, somewhere en route to my heart –or wherever they go- is a mouth-part slowly eating its way into a sanctum sanctorum that few have visited. I can only hope that it’s first name is not Lyme, and that my aging defences recognize the spoor for what it is and, despite the vaunted camouflage, stops it in its tracks. Stuff happens, eh?