Denise Day Spencer

June 17, 2008

When nature bites back

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 7:43 pm

Michael and I recently spent a week at cleftRock Retreat Center in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. It’s a lovely spot, and I highly recommend it. We had a very relaxing week resting, working on our laptops, reading, and enjoying the beauties of nature.

Ah, nature.

Our first day at cleftRock was like something from “The Secret Garden.” Squirrels chased one another in the trees. Lizards scuttled about in the flowerbed outside our door. The birds warbled happily overhead. As I sat outside the cabin praying, a graceful doe strolled through our back yard a mere five yards away. (Have you noticed that does on the printed page are always “graceful?”) At the lodge, I rescued a gorgeous male bluebird trapped in the fireplace, and he didn’t even struggle in my hand, but blinked his tiny bright eyes at me as if I were a trusted friend.

There ended the idyll.

The next day I decided to take a long hike down a dirt road, some 45 minutes to the end of the road and another 45 minutes back–some of it pretty steeply uphill.

I had traipsed along for some time when…well, to put it delicately, Mother Nature called. Boy, did she ever. Mother Nature became a siren luring me to my doom, though I was, as yet, blissfully unsuspecting.

When I was a small child, my mother tried to teach me the ladylike way to relieve oneself when oneself did not have access to the amenities of a gas station restroom or a port-a-pot while traveling. The procedure involved pulling the pants and undergarments forward to keep them dry. I must have not done very well even then, because I have memories of a particular family vacation in which we were sailing along a Smoky Mountain highway with my tiny panties flapping in the breeze from the radio antenna like a flag as they hung there to dry.

Now let me explain that on this hike I was extremely isolated. I was on a dead-end road on private property extending for several hundred acres. Except for the two camp directors and one other guest, Michael and I were the only people at cleftRock this particular week. Still, I was terrified of being spied by one of the three other living souls. To accomplish my purpose and minimize the risk, I traversed off the main road some distance into the woods. I managed to stay dry this time. (I won’t tell you how, except to confide that my britches were lodged for a few moments in the fork of a tree.) Then it was back to the safety of the dirt road for the rest of the journey.

So far, so good. Or so I thought.

When I got back to the lodge I remembered something else my mother had taught me: “Check for ticks.” Since I had ventured into the woods, there might be one or two. There was one. And another. Good thing I checked. Wait. There were a couple more. By the time I met Michael at the lodge, I had pulled probably eight of the creepy-crawlies off of my lower legs. With his help I located several more, and the vast majority were of the tiny deer tick variety. This was getting more worrisome. “You’d better go to the cabin and take a shower,” Michael said.

Back in our room the hide-and-seek went on and I found more ticks. They were everywhere, making their way to higher ground. I was suddenly reminded of the leech scene from “The African Queen.” (If you’ve ever seen it, I know you haven’t forgotten it.) I turned all of my clothing inside-out. The most memorable moment was when I turned up the edges of my athletic socks that I’d worn flipped down and ticks went scurrying everywhere. Oh, they do know where to hide; don’t let anyone tell you they don’t. I showered, scrubbing my body and my head. I didn’t keep count, but I flushed at least 30 ticks of different sizes. They’d been having a regular tick jamboree–on me.

The next day I thought about forsaking my daily walk. But I couldn’t let those teensy bugs get the best of me, so back I went. This time, though, I sprayed my ankles with insect repellent loaned to us by the camp directors. I stayed on the road and didn’t get near the weeds. Either I avoided the ticks or I had destroyed their entire population the previous day.

I’ve never before in my life had so many ticks on me at one time. It’s certainly never been that way at home. Which reminds me of a story my grandmother used to tell. She said when I was a toddler I picked up a bumblebee one day. After I was appropriately stung I complained through my sobs, “De bugs at my house are fwiendly bugs!”

We’re back home now. I miss cleftRock. I miss the squirrels, the lizards and the deer. But I’m mighty glad to be back in the land of friendly bugs once again.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Spencer on “When Nature Bites Back.” (A true story from last week’s retreat.) Posted by: TommyMertonHead @ 8:07 am | Trackback | […]

    Pingback by The Boar’s Head Tavern — June 18, 2008 @ 6:11 am | Reply

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