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 walked along the trail, listening to the whispers of mosquitoes in my ears and the rhythmic sound of soil and gravel being crushed under my cart’s wheels; my thoughts wandered from the past to the future and back again with each stride.  Every so often a mosquito pierces my bug jaket and disturbs my thoughts and senses as I walk, this causes me to swat the back of my neck and arms in an almost autonomic fashion, much like the tail of horse swatting fly’s 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 hours of walking, these important ecological components are becoming ecological annoyances: this ecological masterpiece is now tarnished.  I now begin to think about 30% DEET , and the incineration of all mosquitoes and black flies that enter my personal bubble as I walk.

Throughout the day my lower leg — the anterior muscle compartment — begins to warn me that these muscles are now inflamed, severely inflamed, and, will begin to protest if conditions don’t improve.  I give it little thought to these rumblings. Briefly, I thought keeping hydrated would help; unfortunately, my condition was not attributed to dehydration, but muscle strain.  A short time later my muscles began to organize a protest just 5 km from Sprucedale, ON.  The negotiations begin, but my options are limited: stop and setup camp along the side of the trail, or walk a short distance to Sprucedale.  In Sprucedale I would be able to get ice and take care of this protest.

Just as I enter the edge of Sprucedale, ON, my muscles begin their protest and a limp develops.  After limping down main street Sprucedale in search of a place to sit and ice my shin, a sun tattered OPEN sign behind the window of an old building on the corner of the street greeted me.  I inched closer and to the left of the window was an old wood sign: McManus General Store .

I quickly limped across the street and peered into the front window of the building, which appeared vacant at first glance.  I walk closer and strain my eyes as I look through the dust covered window; I catch the glimpse of two older gentlemen sat across from each other at a table inside. After quickly arranging my cart on the sidewalk, I enter the general store.  Shortly after entering the store, the patina from this weathered place hits me: wood grain finishes, hand written cardboard signs, and old furniture.

There wasn’t a computer generated sign to be seen in this place, nor was there a corporate color scheme. In contrast to the corporate stores that have taken over our cities and towns, this place was original and handmade.

Moments later, two friendly gentlemen welcomed me in.  I am not sure if it was the shock or oddness of my arrival, but they didn’t appear suspicious or ask any questions in the beginning; however, once I settled in and was comfortable at my table, they begin to inquire about what I was up to.  I soon filled them in with what I was setting out to accomplish this summer and my dreams for the future.

After a day and a half of sitting around, I begin to notice that this place serves not just as a store, but a restaurant and a gathering place for the community.  The local residents do not order lattes and paninis at this place, not a chance, they have Bunn made drip coffee and a made-to-order everything burger.

When the residents arrived at the store to order food, a different routine was observed: food was ordered, as usual, but they didn’t immediately turn to their cell phones; instead, they entered into conversations with other patrons about common friends, upcoming gardening/yardwork projects, and the spirited conversations about this and that.  The atmosphere here is one of kindness and community, not of nervousness and being a customer.

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