Mosquitoes, Black Flies, and Good Conversation

May 28/29, 2017

I am going to exercise a different part of my mind today — the creative part, not the analytical part.

As I walk along the trail listening to the whispers of mosquitoes in my ears, and the rythm of soil and gravel being crushed under my cart’s wheels; my thoughts wander from the past to the future and back again.  Every so often a mosquito pierces my bug jaket and disturbs my thoughts and senses while I walk, this causes me to swat the back of my neck and arms in an almost autonomic fashion, like the tail of horse in an open field.

The forest ecologist in me would say the forests and wetlands adjacent to the Seguin Recreational trail is rich with life, and that the squadrons of mosquitoes and black flies are an important component of this magnificient ecological masterpiece; however, after a few hours of walking, these important ecological components are becoming ecological annoyances, and I begin to think how this masterpiece is becoming tarnished.  I now begin to think about spray cans of 30% DEET, and the incineration of all mosquitoes and black flies that enter my sacred personal bubble as I walk.

During the day my lower leg (shin) begins to warn me that the group of muscles on the outside of my shin are now inflammed, and that they will begin to protest if work conditions don’t improve.  I give it little thought to these rumblings. For a brief period of  time I thought the many big gulps of water since the morning while I walked have helped in a small way.  Unfortunately, my condition was not from dehydration, but real muscle strain.  About two hours later, my muscles begin to organize a protest 5 km from Sprucedale, ON.  I now begin negotiations, but my options are limited: stop and setup camp along the side of the trail, or travel a short distance to Sprucedale.  In Sprucedale I would be able to get ice and take care of this protest, and I am now commited to move forward, since the best way out of this skirmish is threw.

As the trail enters the edge of Sprucedale, the protest begins and a limp developes.  After a short limp down main street in search of a place to sit and ice my shin, I see a sun tattered OPEN sign in the window of an old building on the corner of this vacant street.  I look to the left of the window, and an old, painted, wood sign says McManus General Store.

I limp across the street, and peer into the front window of the building, which appeared vacant at first. As I strain my eyes, I see two older gentlemen sat across from each other staring at me from inside. I arrange my cart on the sidewalk, then enter the front door of the general store.  After entering, the obvious patina of this weathered place hit me, with its wood grain finishes, hand written cardboard signs, and old furniture.  There wasn’t a computer generated sign to be seen, or a corporate color scheme observed.  This place was original and handmade, as opposed to the perfection and right angles of the big corporate stores I am used to experiencing.

A few moments later, I was greeted by two friendly gentlemen. I imagine it is not everyday they have some guy in a long sleeved, florescent orange sports shirt, with a walking cart arrive asking for some food and a small bag of ice for his leg.  I am not sure if it was shock, or the absolute oddness of my arrival, but they didn’t appear suspicious or ask any questions at the begining.  Once settled and comfortable at my table, they begin to inquire.  I fill them in with what I was setting out to do this summer, and my dreams for the future.

After a day and a half I began to notice that this place serves as a store, a restaurant, and a gathering place for all in this community.  Local residents do not order lattes and paninis, but they order Bunn made drip coffee and an everything burger made to order by the store owner.

When residents arrrive at the store, they do not order food and turn to their cell phones; however, they oddly enter into conversations with other patrons about common friends, upcoming gardening/yardwork projects, and the spirited conversations about this and that.  The atmosphere is of kindness and community, not nervousness and being the customer.

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