Outdoor Adventure: Warmth arrives at last but so do unwanted guests
Saturday; early afternoon, sun high, sky blue. Outside at noon; it’s a warm day. Outside two hours later; it’s hot. Just like that. Two hours pass and it stops being warm and starts being hot. Seventy-eight degrees that day; 80 on Sunday; 82 Monday. Just like that; hot weather.
You knew it would come; knew it in your head, where thoughts go to sort themselves out. You knew it would come, knew that summer weather would show up and that it would push the memories of a cool, wet spring back into the shadows. You knew it would come, that we’d jump from the lame excuse of a spring we had and go right into summer. And just like that it did.
In that three day span (and on a holiday weekend to boot), the weather turned and with it our attitudes, for who can find fault on days such as those? Find something to whine about on that weekend and there’s probably not much that would please you.
So it turned for us, did the season and did our outlooks.
Back a long time ago it also turned for us, that weekend before Thanksgiving when the temperature dropped below zero and the deer hunters shivered and quaked and we said to ourselves, “Well this won’t last.” But it did.
It lasted through a cold December and we said, “We’ll get a January thaw, you can count on that.” We did not get that thaw. January started cold and then got colder and stayed that way and Rhinelander made the news reports for being so doggone cold. Friends from a long ways away called, e-mailed, said: “Hey, you guys made the news.”
February? No better. March? A day or two that taunted us with the hint of spring then dashed our hopes. April? Nice month if you like chill and late snow and not many that I know favor those.
So finally we got it: Memorial Day Weekend and weather we’d wished for and weather that we told ourselves would come but deep down, deep in our guts, deep down we did not know that we’d get it even if we said we thought we would.
And with that weather came the flowers of spring: the whites of small flowers, the rich cream of the trillium (is there any better flower of the early season?), the startling yellow of the marsh marigold lighting up the low, wet areas. One week; one burst of warm weather; the flowers seemed to come overnight. You knew they would, knew it for the memories of springs past are strong and give us hope on the dreary days of a chill spring.
This week the lilacs will come, as will apple blossoms and cherry; fruit tress will flower and glow in the soft light of dawn and at dusk. This week the trees will fill with green leaf; this week the ferns will unclench and spread leaf over dark ground. This week we will see wonder every day.
You knew it would come; now it’s here. Now you can step out into the back yard and settle in, put your feet up and enjoy the evening. Sit in the lawn chair and listen to the birds and watch the sky go to dusk in the west; sit there, just sit there and enjoy it all.
For about a minute or two. That’s about all it takes. One minute; two at the most. Sit there, eyes closed, listen to birds trill and sing and then, yes, then comes the whine, faint, then closer and you tense up and your eyes pop back open.
Oh yes, mosquitoes. That same combination that brought the belated spring flowers, those ongoing rainy days and then a surge of warm weather, that combination that filled the woods with flower and greenery worked its magic on the mosquitoes. You knew it would; you knew they’d be out.
You knew that when every low spot in the woods held water that the conditions were ripe for a banner year for the mosquitoes. You knew when the temperatures rose and held steady the mosquitoes would hatch out. You knew they’d be bad. You knew that; you just did.
And they’re bad this year. Hate to rain on your parade but if you’re outside without some mosquito repellant slathered on your skin or sprayed in a noxious cloud about your head, if you’re outside without any such preparation or protection all I can say is that you won’t be outside very long.
The first warm night that the mosquitoes showed up, I lay in the dark bedroom and as I started to nod off it heard it: The buzz, the unmistakable whine of a mosquito in the darkness. Ever do that? Stretch out, close your eyes, feel sleep start to draw down the curtain on the day and then hear that sound? It doesn’t do much to ease the pathway to slumber.
I lay there, fully awake, heard the whining draw closer; then contact; mosquito on forehead. Whack! Quiet; sore head but quiet. Breathing slows down; eyes close against the night. Relax.
Then the faint sound of mosquito in the night. Wide awake again; hear it come closer, feel its light touch on my arm; Slap!
It does not make for a restful night and next morning I drag myself from bed, bleery-eyed and achy. Coffee does little good; not the first cup; not the second. And I prowl the house looking for an open, unscreened window, find one, slam it shut and hope for a better night.
I ride my bicycle in the late afternoon, turn down a gravel road into the shade of trees, away from the heat. I stop for a moment, use a tool to loosen and readjust my handlebars and in that moment a swarm of mosquitoes is on me and I think to myself, If I get a flat tire I’ll ride home on the bare rim rather than stop. Then I’m back on the bike and pedaling hard to leave them in my wake.
I am out at next daybreak with camera in hand and there are mosquitoes in the truck cab. I open the windows and blow them out. Then I drive out of town to where the woods are thick, stop and spray a mist of DEET on my shirt and hat before I walk from the truck. The DEET’s rank and penetrating odor has me wheezing. But it does the trick for the most part and the bugs leave me alone.
I wonder to myself how it is that something so small can be so annoying, wonder at how we react to the sound of them, how conditioned we’ve become so that if we hear that buzzing we lock up in anxiety and dread. I wonder if it’s learned or if it is something deep in our DNA, a remnant from ancient ancestors who certainly had to deal with them as well.
The dogs are puzzled by the mosquitoes. Riika shrugs them off then barks at the door, comes inside and lies on the dog bed. Thor lasts longer, shaggy hair giving him some protection. Fenway, with no thick coat seems puzzled as they land and bite, turns and snaps at them, watches them fly up and jumps to try to catch them.
When the dogs are at the door I hurry them in or out, for a door open too long is an avenue for the mosquitoes.
So it goes. You know they’d come and they did, just as the warm weather came and just as the trillium bloomed and as the lilacs will flower this week. You know they’re part of it all, know that as we have rain and warmth we’ll have the mosquitoes. We know all of this but that knowledge is of scant comfort in the dark of the night when the sound comes across the darkness and the soft wings of a mosquito brush your weary forehead.
The sound; the touch; Slap! And into a restless night.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander. Call (715) 362-5800. To comment on this story, visit StarJournalNow.com.