Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear Hearts and Gentle People

I never know where these things are going to come from. This is a true depiction of one day last weekend. It did not even occur to me to think what I might look like.
Dear Hearts and Gentle People

What a wonderful community I live in! Over the weekend, while hacking out weeds, planting petunias to replace the ones frozen in the last snow, and spreading bark chips, I noticed a number of people would drive by, slow down, point, and then wave at me, big grins spreading across their friendly faces. Some even drove around the block twice. They must have been admiring the improvements and changes I have made in my yard. It made my heart swell to know I live among such friendly and observant neighbors. I actually got tears in my eyes because of their gestures of friendship. Generally I work head down and don’t see a thing. From now on I’m on the lookout for opportunities to wave back.

It truly was a beautiful weekend. Well, except for the mosquitoes. Some lucky people say mosquitoes don’t bite them. Others say they get bitten but they don’t swell up and itch; it’s just a nuisance. I guess they see it as donating blood so their fellow creatures can multiply and fill the earth. I am not so magnanimous. I swell and itch and scratch and bleed and scab and scar. By the time fall arrives and the freeze, O blessed freeze, descends, I resemble a walking case of chicken pox gone wrong.

I like to believe all my fellow creatures have a place in the grand scheme of things. Even snakes. I’m able to imagine going through life feared and much maligned. However, I draw the line when it comes to the pesky mosquito. I begin each mosquito season strong and healthy. By fall, because of them, I am an anemic pin cushion. Even clothing does not deter the evil buzz bombers. They can and will drill through a denim jacket, as long as I’m the one wearing it.

Every summer I buy anti-itch ointment by the case. I slather myself with repellent. And the smell—I smell like the effluent from a chemical plant. Oh, I do everything I can to keep those buggers away from me. In the store I read the fine print on each brand of mosquito repellent to see which contains the strongest poisons. I ignore the directions, scrunch up my eyes and spray the stuff head on. I generously coat my entire face, ears, hair and neck and then move down to cover the remainder of my body, including my clothing, and finally apply two coats to my hands. Then I head outdoors to do battle, frequently renewing the spray. Once I am finished in the garden, I strip inside the door and toss my clothes into the washer on my way to the shower to scrub the nasty stuff out of my hair and off my skin.

So I was skeptical when a solution to my mosquito problem arrived in my email. You know, the kind of helpful hints well-meaning friends send out to everyone on their contact list. Usually I delete these things. Some are silly. Some down-right stupid. Some might work, but mostly I don’t have time or inclination to check them out.

This one caught my eye. It was about dryer sheets. Now I already know about dryer sheets, the kind which prevent static cling and make your laundry smell like a French bordello. I hate the things and don’t use them in my dryer. But I drop them here and there around my basement to keep out the mice and spiders. And I have to tell you, my basement is mouse and spider-free. So when I saw that the list of magical uses of dryer sheets included mosquito control, I had to give it a try.

I safety-pinned a dryer sheet to my cap, one on my right sleeve, one to the left tail of my tee shirt, and pinned others to the legs of my jeans and headed out to my backyard to work. And I have to tell you, I did not get bitten. Not one mosquito bite. Oh, they swarmed around me, but it was like I moved in an impervious zone of protection.

Now I don’t know if this new-fangled magic will repel mosquitoes every time but I feel like I have conquered a plague of pests. I had fun working in my garden. I enjoyed the honks and waves of passers-by. And best of all, I discovered what a friendly neighborhood I live in, all in one day.

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