lessons from the arctic (4)

the mosquitoes will feel heavy in your hands when you catch them. you'll note their long, ovoid bodies, a long, searching proboscis tracing curious patterns as they try to push through the netting to reach you. it is strange to you how legible their movements are; they seem almost sluggish, comically oversized, like clumsy giants, but when you try to swat them, they mysteriously vanish past your fingertips. the leading wave of air disturbance from your hands catch their massive wings, and as you watch them crawl over your pants, you may remember that they evolved to feed on reindeer, and that fabric just isn't thick enough.

your head net has a wider mesh so that it has a smaller impact on your visibility, so you'll sometimes sit and stare in horror as the smaller ones wriggle furiously at the gaps until they get inside. but they're easy to catch; just grab a handful of mesh around them and squeeze. soon, the bottom of your head net will fill with crumpled wings.

in order to sleep well, you institute tent-entering protocol that minimizes the amount of space and time they have to slip in. before opening the rain fly, you shake like a dog to get them off your clothes, then you remove your boots outside so you can dive in through the smallest possible gap in the tent door, zipping it shut behind you before you've even hit the ground. of course, some will always end up inside.

lie down, breathe slowly. they will be disoriented for a few minutes, and collect themselves near the ceiling of the tent, for some reason. there, they'll get trapped in the corners, and you can sweep your hand gently along the mesh until you trap them and roll them over. it might take you a few swipes to stop feeling grossed out by the sensation of rupturing bodies under your fingertips, watching blood squirt out from the turgid ones, but you know that you must do this in order to sleep well.

the nights you don't remember to empty your bladder before you enter the tent, you'll lie awake halfway between when you fall asleep and when you wanted to be awake, rolling around to find the position that puts the least amount of pressure on your abdomen. you won't win this fight. the longer you wait, the more work your kidneys will perform. eventually, you must leave the tent, and you'll pull on your rain shell, your bug net, your pants, just to protect your soft, bare skin. at this time of year, the sky is still a soft grey, tinged with pink; it looks strangely fleshy.

when you find a spot far enough from the tent, you'll loosen your pants, and defend what skin you expose as much as you can. but don't forget to look up and find the moon; on a night when it is full, wrapped in clouds, it is like a glowing gash in the sky, like a ripple made of light in a milky glacial lake, a noisy interruption of the otherwise glassy-smooth expanse covering the valley.

it is worth it for this.

02 September 2018 21:26

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