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When Nature Gets in the Way


When Nature Gets in the Way

    The last year has seen an excess of raw nature devastating human endeavor.  The focus has been on the grand scale, hurricanes, floods, and, most recently, a tornado.

    Nature intrudes, however, not just on the macro scale but the micro too. I can show you a receipted check, written recently in the amount of $191.00, as witness to the devastation of small agents of Mother Nature.

    Mice, the ones that decided to nest in our central air conditioner condenser, feasting on the insulation of dormant wires.  Well, the wires may have been dormant, but I did not switch off the circuit breaker in the electrical service and wee mousies, the repairman tells me, are fond of the subtle vibration of sleeping electrical currents. So we sweltered through an afternoon and evening in Central Connecticut where the temperature reached 91 degrees in late May. 

    As the technician swept away the mouse nest and its turds, I remembered another occasion when one of God's smaller creatures wreaked momentary havoc in the Valley Stream church's nursery school.  The fire and smoke alarm was activated.  The fire trucks, three of them, arrived.  Large men in full fire gear tramped through the building.  The fire sensor that was activated was identified.  The device was pulled apart.  It was not defective.  But a small white spider had decided to nest where it shouldn't, and the building screamed for help. 

    We fly up I-91 in a couple of days, to open our Vermont "camp" for another season. The mere mention of Vermont to our neighbors summons up in them visions of a green paradise, fresh sweet-smelling air, blue berry bushes, and spring water.  And, yes, our little hillside sometimes belongs in the category of  Edenic delight.  But those of us with some history of the Green Mountain State know all about the incursions of wee mousies and things that go bump in the night.  All summer we drink West Hartford water, carted by the gallons from our kitchen sink to the camp, which does have running water.  Said water comes from a concrete reservoir into which ground water and deep well water are poured before being pressure piped to our kitchen and bathroom.  We don't drink that water because tests of it have revealed possible contamination with ecoli and, I suspect but cannot prove, giardia (beaver poop).  Besides I have seen with my own eyes what has floated inside catchment cylinders. 

    Talk about small creatures and havoc, a couple of weeks in July in our Vermont are unbearable without a strong breeze: no-seeums fly through screens and bite like mosquitoes.

    Nature is blood red in tooth and claw, according to Tennyson, who also, let it be quickly added, knew how to celebrate nature's glories.  What he didn't say, nor could his poetic sensibility entertain, is the minor annoyances the natural world amply also provides.  Church historian Cecil Richardson drew a few titters from his classes in my day when he described second century heretic Marcion as being unable to believe the same God who made pussycats also made mosquitoes.  Right, we were awakened very early one August morning as a porcupine noisily climbed the apple tree outside our cabin window.  One of the pet dogs of yesteryear had to be doused with tomato juice to mitigate the smell of a skunk he challenged.  And another suffered the slings and arrows of an angry porcupine. That is, nature isn't all eat or be eaten.  It's more itch and scratch, run and hide, and get me some citronella.

    But you don't write lyrical poetry about bee stings. 

    You write sardonic essays.  About sharing this creation with other creatures, many of whom find you an enemy, an obstruction, or a feast. Barbara is the one in our house who seizes sunny days in summer as God's great gift, not only of vitamin D but for tramping among the flowers.  She occasionally chides me for wasting the sunlight and staying glued to my computer or crossword puzzle, or any other indoor pursuit which will keep me from bugs and sweat.

    I'm no tree hugger. Child Bobby never learned to shinny and took no delight in the view from high branches.  Long ago I learned to spot poison ivy from thirty feet away.  I have a healthy regard and, on occasion, disdain for the natural order. My cautious regard for the natural order was affirmed again this week.  The trip to Vermont referred to above concluded on Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer, with three inches of snow that chased us from Eden in Vermont, as leafed trees fell on power lines and we were bereft of baseboard heating and coffee.  Three days later, today, that is, I hide in the cool and shaded study of our home, deciding not to brave for chores the ninety degree heat burning down on us. 




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