Written by Angela
I try not to be a whiner. I really do. This life we’re living is pretty wonderful. We’re in a beautiful National Forest. We eat delicious food. We get to hike, canoe, swim, and run on trails every day. I have a sweet little toddler who is adventurous and funny, with an affinity for laughter, raspberries, dirt, and twirls. I love my wife. I’m healthy and happy and doing this thing—this year of volunteer travel discernment—that we’ve been hoping and dreaming and planning for all this time. Hear this. I am grateful. And privileged. And lucky. Truly.
But these damn mosquitoes.
There are so many of them. After spending over fifty dollars—yes, you read that correctly—on various mosquito repellents, we’ve finally found one safe and natural enough for Riah’s baby soft skin, yet aggressive enough to ward off those bloodsucking beasts swarming around his little blond head. It’s actually pretty humorous.
“They should be getting better any day now,” Vermonters tells us.
“The mosquitoes are usually gone by this time of year,” regular Silver Lake hikers inform us. “I’ve never seen them this bad,” mud-soaked mountain bikers insist.
Vermont has had more rain this summer than in the past 130 years. 130 years! June was the hottest June on record for the entire planet; I’m so glad climate change isn’t real (insert side eye). The mosquitoes aren’t bad three miles up the road, or on other hikes, or in town. They just swarm around Silver Lake and our camper and our toddler’s poor little noggin. Seriously.
As seen on our “Guiding Principles” page, there are certain values, virtues, principles by which we try to abide. Like the ethical systems of all people trying hard to be good, sometimes we fall short. But these damn mosquitoes are killing me. We’re a little vegan family, for example. Don’t worry, we haven’t been tempted to eat the mosquitoes. But an obvious undergirding principle of veganism is not killing things, like animals, often even bugs. I’ve been known to catch a spider, even a gross roach (tucked carefully between a cup and a box and not near my hands, of course), and to rush outside flinging them wildly, yet lovingly, into the grass while shouting, “You’re free!” Elizabeth made a non-violent trap to catch fruit flies without killing them, for crying out loud. It’s not really in me to kill something, even a bug, when given the choice. And I’m a pacifist, which is closely linked to my veganism. Do no harm. Try to leave things better and more beautiful than you found them, and if you can’t, at least let them live. Life is valuable, worthwhile and meaningful, even if it’s small, unseen, or seemingly insignificant to me. Even if it’s mangy or gross or unwanted. Life is valuable. I want to respect and honor that.
And yet in recent days you could have found me, the vegan pacifist, clenched fist flying toward the canvas walls of the camper, while shouting, “Die mother f*$#%er!” and crushing the life of a helpless mosquito, his/her blood now splattering across the canvas and onto my knuckles. “That was quite out of character for you,” I thought of myself.
It didn’t start quite so violently. It began with essential oils, which actually smelled quite nice. And the mosquitoes nibbled Riah’s neck and legs. It progressed to swatting and a “natural” bug spray. And the mosquitoes attacked the poor little dude’s forehead. I’d say, “Sorry mosquito,” while uttering a little prayer of gratitude for the bug’s short life as I squashed it in a wash cloth. I tried to be nice. I tried to follow my principles. I really did. But no matter how many times Elizabeth swatted and said, “Don’t you sting my baby,” they just wouldn’t listen.
Now there are at least six blood stains on the inside canvas of the camper and the carcasses and various severed limbs of slain mosquitoes can be found throughout our belongings. We do a thorough squashing each night before bed as we literally hunt for any bloodsuckers that found their way inside and render their bodies lifeless in a wash cloth specifically set aside for killing mosquitoes. Really. The wash cloth isn’t for washing dishes, or counters, or bodies; it isn’t for wiping up spills. The sole purpose of said wash cloth is the utter annihilation of mosquitoes who happen to fly into the confines of our living space. For them, it is not a living space. It is a dying space. Our camper is a mosquito graveyard.
I suppose I’m more of a situational ethicist than I thought. I’ll set the spiders and non-biting bugs free, but the mosquitoes must die. Hashtag: #sorrynotsorry