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The Biting Season

The black flies have arrived this week, marking the beginning of the biting season. Although it promises to snow tomorrow night, they are breeding in flying swarms on top of our hill.

I don't seem to notice them until I stop gardening.

This afternoon, I left the car's headlights on for the third time this week. I blame the rain to make myself feel better, but there's clearly something about driving a car that I still haven't gotten used to, even after 15 years behind the wheel. The speed of planting a garden is more to my liking, allowing me more time to change course.

With no power, I had to delay a trip to the nearest city until help could arrive. Given the extra time, I transplanted a mound of cheddar pinks, a start of bee balm and a year-old sage bush from a corner of a raised stone flower bed that I had planted in haste, leaving each plant too little room.

I was not bothered in my flower beds. It was when I walked back to the top of this hill to rest by the car, that I noticed that I was surrounded by a cloud of black flies.

The black flies I remember from my childhood were tiny, almost too small to see. The ones I see these days are fairly fat, shorter but bigger than a mosquito. I find it even more painful now that I can see them coming. I wonder if the change has been in me.

The horses down the road attract them first, but they quickly move up the hill from the swamps to find our less thoroughbred blood. It will be another month before the black flies are gone, and by that time all chance of a late snow will be gone as well. Marsh marigolds and skunk cabbage in the swamps will be replaced by poison ivy stretching from wet roots to the treetops.

Whatever the season, there is a trouble from being outside - bites, burns and rashes. Nature seems to be annoyed, and demands that I leave it alone, with stinging nettles settling in amongst the vegetables. Some people would harvest the nettles for tea or industrial-strength fibers, but I don't know how, and I don't want to surrender to them.

I want a stronger wind to blow the black flies away, but that same wind blows apart the tulips on the day of their opening.

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