It’s Sunday, May 7, 2017. I’m currently in a coffee shop on Portage Avenue, waiting for a toasted cinnamon bun to go with my coffee. I’ve just come from the Living Prairie Museum on Ness Avenue, a small nature preserve within Winnipeg city limits.
I have also just terminated with extreme prejudice a small brown bug that just crawled out of my hair. It looks suspiciously like a tick, specifically the kind and I intend to wrap its fingernail-mangled, dismembered corpse in a napkin and take it with me for medical forensics in case I discover any mysterious bites on my person suggestive of Borrelia burgdorferi infection. Hopefully it’s the only…
...Oh, bloody ‘ell, there’s another one of the little blighters. *mangle*
And a third. *crunch*
Okay, it’s official: I am not a happy camper -- or hiker, as the case may be. That said, I knew this job was dangerous when I took it. I’m fully aware that May is tick season, and although I’ve never actually sustained a tick bite I harbour a profound dislike for that particular insect genus. I’m on a far less malevolent footing with mosquitoes and wasps, in fact.
I went out for a walk on the tall grass prairie anyway.
There is a poignant phrase from The Soulforge by Margaret Weis: “If we stop living because we fear death, then we have already died.” This is something that I strive to live by, believing as I do that we get one life per customer and that the quality of that life is directly proportional to the amount of responsibility we assume for its disposition.
If I decline to go for a Sunday stroll in the open air because I fear ticks, then something in me is gasping for breath -- not dead yet, but not fully alive either. I can choose my battles to some extent, calculating risks and minimizing overt stupidities, but hiding indoors on a sunny spring afternoon is not an option.
And now it’s Sunday, June 11, 2017. I’m sitting in a different coffee shop, this time one on Academy Road. I’m on my way home from a stroll at Fort Whyte Centre and seem to have escaped unscathed. All I did was take reasonable precautions, wandering down the center of the Lakeside Trail and back to the entrance via a floating boardwalk, staying out of heavily overgrown areas.
If I had acquiesced to the fear I wouldn’t have heard the birdsong, a dozen unfamiliar tunes. I wouldn’t have been able to stop and smell the wild roses, which are everywhere. I wouldn’t have seen the bright yellow lady’s slippers lurking by the side of the path, lying in wait for unsuspecting bugs. The main insects I did see were some ground-cruising blue beauties (damselflies, I think), one larger dragonfly in a holding pattern at 1,000 mm, and some gregarious butterflies. There was a family of Canada geese in one of the lakes, an occasional duck quack from somewhere in the marsh, and bison in the field beside the access road.
I had a good time. Better yet, the post-excursion check-over did not reveal any ticks or in fact any other bugs hiking across my person.
It’s entirely possible that on some future stroll in the woods, some minuscule wildlife will hitch a ride home with me. If and when that happens, I’ll just deal with it and keep going.