Monday, June 12, 2006

Don't Grin, Don't Laugh, and Don't Breathe with your Mouth Open

How many tons of insect life are hovering over Effingham at this moment?

I rode home from the Conservation Commission meeting in the dusk. Unexpectedly heavy showers earlier in the evening had prompted me to take the fixed gear, but they had passed. The last pink drained slowly off the bases of the drifting clouds as I flowed smoothly through the dusk. The fixed gear's continuous drive creates an endless connected series of overlapping circles through the air.

I stopped briefly to chat with my friend Lee. He's biked every road, hiked every trail and bushwhacked every glade in all four seasons around here. Lately he's been doing some trail work up in Conway. He keeps trying to get me to ride my mountain bike again. He's also an incredible boat handler, having been a boat jockey for Outward Bound at one point in his youth. He's pretty much your all-purpose outdoor traveler. The kind who never brags and whose advice is always short, quiet and dead on. He was chuckling because his daughter, home for a visit from Manhattan, can handle all-night city noise, but can't sleep through 4:30 a.m. birdsong.

It's all what you're used to. Actually, I sleep like a log anywhere, but I definitely prefer the birdsong and the unbelievable silence this place can produce at nght.

Once I left Effingham Falls and headed up the steady grade into the woods to skirt the shoulder of the Green Mountain massif I started to feel the impact of something like dry raindrops. Little motes of winged protein smacked into me as thickly as the earlier shower had peppered me with droplets. I wanted to laugh, but I knew I shouldn't open my mouth. I was glad I wear glasses.

All the wet weather has helped produce a crop of mosquitoes like something out of a horror movie. The shrieking swarm condenses around you the minute you venture into a vegetated area. They wait on tall grass and billow up in clouds. They hover in the forest and the undergrowth. Add to this all the other flitting and flying things that have to do their thing in the short warm season, and all the others that feed on them. Shake and pour out into the summer evening. Bip, bap pip pap pippity pap pepper the face of the night rider. How can you tell a happy cyclist? By the bugs in his teeth. Don't laugh. Don't grin. Don't breathe with your mouth open.

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