“We are Nature, long have we been absent,
but now we return,
We become plants, trunks, foliage, roots, bark,
We are bedded in the ground, we are rocks,
We are oaks, we grow in the openings side by side,
We browse, we are two among the wild herds,
spontaneous as any,
We are two fishes swimming in the sea together,
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent
around lanes mornings and evenings,
We are also the coarse smut of beasts, vegetables,
We are two predatory hawks, we soar above and
We are two resplendent suns, we it is who balance
ourselves orbic and stellar, we are as
We prowl fang’d and four-footed in the woods,
we spring on prey,
We are two clouds forenoons and afternoons
We are seas mingling, we are two of those
cheerful waves rolling over each other
and interwetting each other,
We are what the atmosphere is, transparent,
receptive, pervious, impervious,
We are snow, rain, cold, darkness, we are each
product and influence of the globe,
We have circled and circled till we have arrived
We have voided all but freedom and all but
our own joy.
-- Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
* * * * *
Spring and summer are “insect seasons,” of course, and some of you are concerned about bugs and getting bitten. Since I regularly get questions about “insect issues,” here are comments I offered in Updates the past few summers:
Who loves bugs? Not most of us, I suspect, although if birds and other creatures who dine on insects could talk, they’d surely present a different point of view.
Most insects don’t bother us in any way, and we’re often not even aware of them. It’s the ones that fly in our face or try to bite us that naturally attract our attention.
Bugs are active in the natural world during the warmer seasons, and we need to learn to accept them -- while, of course, defending ourselves against the “biters.”
Some people who haven’t spent lots of time in nature have trouble tolerating insects and may get stressed out about them. It’s worth “making peace with bugs,” and learn to accept that they’re an integral part of the community of life on earth.
You don’t have to count them among your friends, but bugs do play important roles in serving as food for birds and other creatures, pollinating flowers, etc.
As I sometimes mention, it’s not uncommon to have one or two hikers in a group who seem to be singled out by insects. It can be worth trying to figure out why.
The use of scented soaps, shampoos, and deodorants can sometimes be a cause (using non-scented products a day or two before a hike is recommended).
Our diet could be another possible reason. There seems to be evidence that people whose diet includes lots of sugar may attract more insects (minute amounts of much of what we take into our body may be secreted through our skin).
Insects can locate us especially easily from our sweat -- and sweating is, of course, an unavoidable, absolutely necessary, and healthy part of the exercise of hiking.
In next week’s Update I’ll address the subject of bug repellents, including which ones are safest to use, and those that may be hazardous to our health -- and other ways to discourage insects from getting too close.
Bug populations in our area tend to drop off as summer progresses, so while there can be a new wave any time, they’re usually less abundant in August, even more scarce in September, and mostly absent altogether from mid-fall till early spring.
Also, many insects are less prevalent in the cooler, breezier mountain areas where most of our trips take place. On the vast majority of our hikes they’re not an issue.
Occasionally we encounter more biting insects than usual (like on this year’s July 4th camping trip), which can be challenging to deal with but never spoils a trip.
Many of us who spend time in the natural world aren’t distressed about sharing our space with insects, as long as they’re not too abundant or pesky. If you feel otherwise, try to adopt the attitude that you’re not going to let insects bug you!
-- Charlie Cook