Mosquitoes are Like the Weather?

Creek in our camp

Slocan, British Columbia

I adore the two ladies who seemed to be the librarians at the Slocan Public Library. (Not that they know me or that I feel this way about them.)

Slocan is a tiny, lakeside, one-market hippie kind of place. It felt like I imagine a small surfing town in 1960s northern California, with a beautiful lake snuggled underneath giant mountains built from igneous rock and carved by ancient ice. I wandered into town to try and find some internet. The coffee shop that supposedly had wifi featured a sign saying it was “closed due to the owner getting injured.”

So I wandered around lakeside and then found the library when it started to rain. I slipped inside, signed onto the wifi, and caught snippets of their conversation while trying to download maps and figure out my next few camps. 

Lakeside storm in Slocan

…Thank goodness for the rain. Maybe now that they are getting fires back east, Toronto will start to care about what we’ve been dealing with out here…

…How are the mosquitoes where you are? Seems to depend on the place. And the time of day. I tend to keep covered, though. What does he expect, walking around in short pants?…

[Loud thumping near the door.] … Someone’s dropping off books! [Little kid laughter. More thumping.]

…Then at the meeting I asked about the logging and got shut down for talking. I felt horrible. Like I was in grade six again chatting with my friend. Made me wonder if in my thirty years as a teacher I ever shut kids down and made them feel bad like that? I hope I didn’t, but I probably did…

[Library patron comes in.] …Friends in town from scandinavia… Saw some glacier lilies but no bears. They wanted to see bears. A helicopter was giving tourists a ride and flying low to try and flush bears out… That’s just so wrong! They should not do that! … You know, they are called icefields now instead of glaciers…

[Another visitor comes in.] … So grateful for the rain. We need it! How are the mosquitoes where you are? They’re early this year. Maybe they’ll be done early, too…

[Lady smashes a mosquito.] … There one was just now! It wasn’t full of blood though. I hate it when you smash them and they splatter blood…

… Seems like we just went right from winter to summer without any spring…

… I’ll see you at knitting in public, then?…

Bridge over the waterfall next to our camp

As I finished roughly planning my route up to Jasper, it occured to me that people here talk of mosquitoes like they talk about the weather. Like any other small talk. 

Mosquitoes are like the weather? 

At the elementary school, I teach that “feelings are like the weather,” in order to try and help the kids understand that feelings are neither good nor bad. They just happen. They are temporary. They are real, and can affect you, but you can control how you respond to them in your behavior. 

So, by the transitive property, mosquitoes are like feelings? Mosquitoes are neither good nor bad? There is definitely a part of me that is tempted to think of mosquitoes as bad. They spread disease and are very annoying. 

First run on Canadian soil

That evening, I would soon come to understand exactly how annoying they could be. I took the pups down to the Slocan Valley Rail Trail by the river. It was beautiful, but we could not pause for more than a second, lest we be covered—and I do mean swarmed and completely coated—with mosquitoes. The dogs seemed to understand they needed to keep moving, too. Hazel rolled and rolled, trying to rid herself of them.

Rolling, rolling, rolling on the rail trail

People had warned me. Abby gave me some Skin-So-Soft and said I would want a bug net.

My aunts used to live in Alaska and I recalled seeing a magnet or a postcard at Grandma Jo’s house that showed a picture of a big mosquito and said, “Alaska’s State Bird.” 

I thought, “I’ve been to India. I lived in the south. They can’t be worse than that.” 

Oh yes, they can be worse. Much worse. Thick clouds of vampire insect drones! 

Ginger is more tolerant of the bugs

This first major encounter would not even turn out to be the most extreme. But now, every time I smash one that splatters out blood, I smile and think of the Slocan Public Library ladies. 

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