“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” ~ Dalai Lama
When I was a child in the ‘60s, our family went on a camping vacation every summer. We packed a “pop-up” camper with all the essentials and pulled it behind our Oldsmobile to the mountains of Colorado or a lake in Minnesota where we lived with nature for a couple of weeks. We all enjoyed the campfires, fishing, and sightseeing adventures that left lasting impressions on my siblings and me. The memories of those trips are still fun to recall when we all get together, but recently I’m reminded of an incident in a Minnesota campground that is lodged in my memory with clarity that defies the decades.
After our usual evening campfire and roasted marshmallows, it was time to retire to our canvas-covered box to sleep. My sister and I shared a bunk on one wing of the camper. My brothers shared space on the other wing, and my parents took the bed that magically folded into a kitchen table during the day. Of course, we had a light on inside the camper as we all settled into our spots, but once the lights went out, my parents expected total quiet. But on that particular night a soft humming sound gained momentum and sharp, stinging sensations had us jumping up in bed. When the light came back on we realized we were under attack by an army of mosquitoes. The kids ducked under the covers for protection while my dad, armed with a folded road map, defended his family. There was much swinging, and slapping…and evidently a fair bit of swearing. By morning, the ravages of the battle were splattered on the canvas walls and ceiling of our camper-home. Our own blood, splashed beneath the remains of dozens of flattened mosquitos. The road map was tattered and unreadable, but we all survived the battle, thanks to the valiant efforts of my dad.
I can’t say exactly how old I was on that trip but it was somewhere between, “good vocabulary and poor comprehension.” Maybe four or five. As I stood in the bathhouse with my mom and my sister on “the morning after,” I spied one of the little flying bugs that created such havoc in our camper the night before. “Look at the little b#stard!”I shouted. In an instant, my mother’s hand clapped over my mouth with a startling sting. No doubt she wanted to rewind my outburst and squelch it before it could escape. How was I to know they were mosquitoes? I was sure I had heard them called “little b#stards” and other names I couldn’t recall, in the camper the night before.
Well, the little buggers are here, on our peaceful island, and they appear to be very hungry. I have been bit on my morning walks; I’ve been bit on the beach. I’ve been stung while driving my car, and I slapped one on my leg in the dairy aisle of the grocery store. Last night one nibbled on my ear as I slept. How much blood can they get from the cartilage of my outer ear? I hope he buzzed off in a dissatisfied huff.
I’m not ambivalent when it comes to mosquitoes. I can’t seem to muster up any compassion for their existence. If I see one, I swing at it. If I smash one, I feel victorious. I wouldn’t say they are my enemy exactly, but I would rather be sitting on a park bench with a spider or a snake than a hungry mosquito.
I suppose I can still learn tolerance from the bug-that-is-not-my-enemy. They attract dragonflies. They are sustenance for fish and birds. This is the first time in six years that mosquitoes have caused disruption in my life, so I’ll give them this one summer. I’ll wear citronella spray on the beach and walk my dog in open spaces with lots of breeze. I’ll be vigilant about making sure there is no standing water in my yard, and I’ll say quiet prayers of thanks every time I hear the airplanes flying low in the middle of the night. And one day, their numbers will be under control once again. And they’ll fly back to the swamp where they belong. Because even though they aren’t really my enemy, I still don’t like the little b#stards.
Laurie Kasperbauer, RYT 200, enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes. Laurie is also an active Florida realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. She can be reached at Harborview Realty, 291 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, or by calling 712-210-3853.