Buck Moon: Living with Bugs

By , July 14, 2011

If you’re reading Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons as a lunar calendar with me this year, today is the full moon (at least in my time zone) so let’s read Buck Moon—From the Field Guide to Insects. Hardly an evocative title, but the poem’s very nice.

I, perhaps like you, grew up with a less than enthusiastic attitude toward “bugs.” They were fine as toys, particularly made by my friends’ Creepy Crawler manufacturing set. In real life, that was another matter entirely.

It’s ironic, then, that I would “grow up” to live on this homestead, surrounded by bugs. From the ever-present carpenter ants to spiders, to the fleas perpetuated by the squirrels and other critters in the yard, (and occasionally, the cat) to biting insects and garden pests, bugs are a big part of our life. I know how important to our lives they are, in positive as well as negative ways. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

Luckily for me, I seem to have outgrown what I can only assume was a severe allergy to Alaska’s biting insects. As a child the bites I received from mosquitoes and black flies would swell horribly. One year at summer camp, white sock bites completely closed one of my eyes, and nearly did the same to the other. My face swelled up horribly until my camp mates could only stare at me in horror.

Now, while the bites still itch, they’re so inconsequential I hardly notice them. They’re a minor annoyance that quickly goes away. Some bites even disappear after the next shower. Every now and then I’ll get a nasty one, like a bite recently from a black fly (I think) swelled up most of my arm, and blistered! That one was very weird.

So, perhaps Ms. Oliver will forgive me. Despite her poem’s title, she speaks of lying down to breathe “the sweet honey of the grass” without mentioning the cloud of no-see-ums and midges that passage immediately calls to my mind.

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