Friday, August 31, 2012

Death by...chiggers?

So when my husband first told me about chiggers, I thought he was kidding.  I mean, what kind of creature has a name like "chigger"?  Was this a southern thing?  I can't recall ever dealing with chiggers when I lived up north.  After hiking through several fields, however, I learned chiggers were for real and the only way I could escape them was by wandering in the winter.  Or the rain. 

Chiggers are gross.  And on Tuesday, I plodded right through their lair.  At first, it wasn't on purpose.  My day had been stressful and chock full of anxiety, and I just wanted some quiet next to a running stream.  But I didn't want just any location--I wanted solitude.  No people, thank you very much. 

So I took the path less traveled, which happened to be through grass, brambles, cobwebs and pain.  By the time I got caught on the first thorn, I knew I had stubbornly committed to this journey and decided, in kind of a self-destructive fashion, that I might as well continue.  After about ten minutes of searching for the elusive stream, I retreated to a patch of emerald green grass sans brambles, plunked down my ratty blanket and sulked, only to look down at the cuffs of my capris to see they were moving.

Now, if you've ever watched your clothes move, you know how creepy that can be.  Not many people get to see this, never mind clothing moving in marches of minuscule, red spider-looking things packed more closely together than people in Penn Station at rush hour.  It was interesting in a way, especially as when I pulled up my pants leg, I saw they were migrating.  Then I noticed my ankle skin was also migrating, and I knew for sure, my funky friends must be right where I was sitting, which left my behind exposed.  These things can go right through your clothes.

Being the innovative person I am, it dawned on me that I might have a solution.  I pulled a stick of extra strength deodorant out of my handbag and slathered it all over my pants leg, knees, feet, sandals and arms.  There they were, dead things lodged in my deodorant stick, which I think I need to throw away now.  But I didn't feel the lease bit of Buddhist guilt this time because I knew they had already received their Karma and perhaps, after learning this lesson, would be reincarnated as something better than a mite or chigger.

I finally gave up my grass time and made my way to a more popular spot where I knew for sure I'd have running stream access.  The cool water felt good against my bitten, thorn-torn skin and on my feet.  I scooped up water and washed my face and neck.  I took a brush out, ran it through my sweaty hair and made a ponytail out of a random scrunchie from my bag.  (My bag is full of useful things, as you might have noticed.) 

I spent the next minutes (20 or so?) reveling in the sound and sense of cool water.  I turned over rocks, looking for salamanders.  There weren't any, but several schools of minnows scooted out of my way as I explored deeper waters.  Off and on, I considered what I might look like to joggers or walkers--a 40-ish lady wading in somewhat muddy waters--but it was worth the risk.  I'd heard one remedy for anxiety was to get out of the stressful environment and into a new texture.  That water was the texture.  I wasn't anxious anymore.  I was depressed because when I am very anxious for long periods of time, I tend to get depressed, but a lot of things are better than anxiety.

The point of the story is this:  not surprisingly, I am now covered in bites.  My knees look like I have mumps.  My legs are a mess because I can't stop scratching.  I scratched the side of one leg so hard, it's bruised.  I've lathered on poison ivy lotion, to not avail.  Finally, last night, I tried a remedy suggested by at least six people: put clear nail polish on the bites. 

Well, I don't have clear nail polish.  The closest I could come to was pink, so I painted myself with pink polish, which did take the itch off somewhat.  A bit of Benedryl also helped, but I can't take that during the day because it makes me fall asleep, and I have a hard time staying awake as it is.  (Anxiety can make you reeeeeealy tired.)  But the worst part is coming:  I have a doctor's appointment this morning.  And not only is he a doctor, he is an OBGYN.  So now I am thinking, good.  This doctor is going to have me in stirrups and see pink nail polish covering my body.

Scratching the nail polish has done little good, except to make the bites bleed.  So what's a girl to do? 

Nail polish remover, of course.

Yeah. You can imagine what that felt like and what the bites look like now.

Ironically, burning these blobs of bites off alleviated the itch for a little time, so if I can get over the idea of burning my skin off, I might have found a cure.

Then again, pouring on gasoline and setting myself on fire might also work.  But it's not very practical, and the doctor will be even less impressed.

This is what happens when you get desperate for nature, quiet and peace, at least in our area.

No wonder I sometimes want to become Thoreau and live in a cabin up north where there are no chiggers.  But then, I guess I'd have mosquitoes.  Every place has its blood suckers. 

The moral of the story? 

Stay away from biting bugs. 

And keep seeking silence, no matter where you can find it.
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