Just after I bought my first set of plants this year, I heard a commentary on NPR by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her recently published memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, covers the year she spent in Italy, India and Indonesia, following a bad divorce.
This commentary focused on her experience with vipassana meditation at dusk in India, as mosquitoes dive-bombed her. She describes the intensity of the bites, and how that feeling lifted her to a true meditative state.
I remember listening to it as I drove down I-380, thinking about my lifelong war with mosquitoes. Across the world, mosquitoes unite when they see me, and say, “Hey, look—it’s a tasty morsel!” Then they attack.
As we dug in the garden that first night, I heard a familiar whine near my left ear, then another, pitched just slightly lower, near my right. I was wearing long pants, long sleeves and gardening gloves, but where I bent over, my shirt exposed a swath of skin on my lower back. Within moments, I realized that skin, bone-white in the fading light, was like a beacon to the bloodsuckers. I slapped, I scratched, I wriggled my back as best I could, but the longer we worked, the more welts rose up between the waistband of my pants and my shirt hem.
“Are you getting bit?” I asked Steve.
He stopped digging for a minute and cocked his head while he considered the state of his bare skin. “Yeah, I think I am.”
“They’re eating me alive,” I said. “Where are they coming from? Isn’t it awfully early for mosquitoes?” It seemed unfair that they’d be on the rampage so early in May.
It was then that I thought of Elizabeth Gilbert’s commentary, and though I certainly wasn’t meditating, I decided I would try to take her words to heart and see if I could just be, no matter how many of the damn things bit me. I didn’t have to find inner peace, just a momentary lapse of my current level of misery.
Just then, as I breathed deeply and tried to acknowledge the mosquitoes as just a part of the cycle of life, something in the sky caught my attention. I turned my head and stood up to see what it was.
Up at treetop level, swooping back and forth, were a pair of bats in search of a snack. I don’t know much about gardening, but I do know that having bats around can help keep down some of the moths and other pests that feed on plants. Without the mosquitoes, we probably wouldn’t have our bat buddies hanging around. It’s all just one big cycle.
“Bite me,” I muttered to the mosquitoes. It might not have been inner peace, but for that moment, it was enough.