This past Wednesday was the first day of summer. I could have seen the world outside without artificial light during all the hours I was awake. Yet, I stayed indoors. Why? I wasn’t up to the threat.
Counteracting my endless encouragement, want, and need to stay connected to the outdoors are thousands of tiny, biting arachnids. These eight-legged villains are like bad cousins to the beneficial spiders in their family. They are ticks. Lyme disease has made the blacklegged variety famous, but the whole lot of them represent potential for dangerous disease.
June is prime time for the presence of the tiniest nymphs. Rain, which came as heavy downpours this week, revives their bloody hunger. And the predictions of a heavy tick year are being realized. Thus, there can be no visits to the woods–or even strolls across my rural backyard–on a day like Wednesday without chemical protection and a followup scrub down in the shower. This was powerfully evident on Monday, when after a brief walk to the compost pile to dump a few day’s worth of kitchen scraps, I found six blacklegged nymphs (also called deer ticks) crawling on my arm and a dog tick on the back of my leg.
The situation leaves my heart as heavy as a noncombatant in the middle of a war zone. I cannot enjoy the country I love. It is a risk to my well-being to simply lay in the grass and watch the clouds form and roll across the sky. I am left to ask “why” over and over again. Why are there not better shields to prevent disease? Why are there not better weapons to chase the enemy away? Why is this happening now; humanity cannot take any more distance from the natural world?
It would be irresponsible for me to write about the joys of being outside in Pennsylvania without acknowledging this serious threat. My state ranked number one on the list of reported cases of Lyme in 2015. I would also be betraying you if I pretended to ignore the emotion toll this situation takes on my outdoor experience, my cherished lifeline to sanity.
Meanwhile, I will face the threat. I will spray and shower and inspect. I will resist the temptation to pave over the tall grass or cut down the shade bearing trees. I will defy the fear and take the risk. I will figure out how to live the limited number of years of my life inside the war zone without constantly giving up that which I need to survive. I will know what to do if I get hit. I will support those who are fighting to protect me. And I will allow myself to dream of a discovery that will bring about peace.
And until then, I will strictly commit, at least during this time of heavy fighting, to only enter the front line with full armor and precautionary action.