I have just finished applying a coating of Aveeno anti-inch lotion onto three clusters of mosquito bites on my arms and neck. This is in addition to several places where chiggers chowed down on my lower legs near the ankles. Blood sucking insects are among my worst pet peeves regarding the great outdoors.
The last time I visited friends in northern Minnesota, we spent some time hiking on a trail in Red Lake State Forest. It’s a stunningly gorgeous, idyllic wilderness area. Of course there are the sparkling waters of the lake and the fascinating flora of the forested area.
There was the pre-hike prep I had to do before taking in the lake. I applied a layer of sunscreen to exposed skin to help prevent the severe sunburn I always get when spending any amount of time outdoors on sunny days. In addition to the sunscreen, all of us sprayed “Repel” tick and insect repellent all over our bodies. We paid close attention to places on our bodies that contact elastic like legs under socks and the waistbands of underwear because ticks and chiggers favor those areas.
The hiking and sightseeing were satisfying and very enjoyable. Our host warned us that we would need cut our exploration short so we could return to the vehicle before dusk. We had to hustle back in order to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that disregard insect repellents.
When we returned to the vehicle parking lot, we examined each others’ skin for ticks. Despite our care in applying repellent before the hike, all of us had been attacked by at least a few of the nasty bloodsuckers. We must have spent about an hour carefully removing ticks from each other. Everyone in the group also found chigger bites on our legs. We finished checking each other for ticks just in time to sequester ourselves in the safety of the host’s SUV to avoid the mosquitoes.
Last night, I took out the garbage. I was only outside for about one minute, yet two mosquitoes took advantage of me during that short amount of time. I really want to fully enjoy the great outdoors, but whenever I go outside in the warm months, I pay a penalty in pain. If it’s not the biting insects and ticks, it’s the threats of heatstroke and sunburn.
I like the concept of being in the great outdoors better than the actuality of it. It’s wonderful to close my eyes and visualize the trees, the mountains, camping, hiking, walking along a lake shore, and photographing it in all of its glory. The imaginary outdoors is a lovely mental escape.
I didn’t always avoid the outdoors. Growing up, my parents forced my siblings and me to play outside. Although I preferred the great indoors in order to read or tinker with hobbies, I managed to find some sort of outdoors entertainment.
Many of the hot, muggy days of my youth were spent bicycling with my brother all over the city of Lincoln, Nebraska. We probably knew the layout of the town better than most taxicab drivers. Even though we rarely asked for mom’s permission to explore far away from home, we were never scolded nor got into trouble for doing so. The only punishment Mark and I ever received was sunburned skin.
For no particular unremembered reason, I prefer to stay indoors and do sheltered pursuits. During some coffee breaks, I reminisce about past vacations spent at parks and wilderness areas in the great outdoors. However, there’s a big problem with imagining the great outdoors. The imagination also generates the desire to actually go into the wilderness. The full realization eventually returns the mind to the actual, past unpleasant consequences of spending time outside.
Despite my aversion to the outdoors, I know I should spend more time outside doing pleasant activities. Although I make an effort to walk along the new hiking trail that begins near my home, there is the need for more than an occasional stroll. I’ve been thinking of getting another bicycle. After all, bicycling was my favorite outdoors activity as a youth. On the other hand, after considerable overthinking, I wonder if I’d be happier with an indoors exercise bike instead.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes public health professor Dr. S. Jay Olshansky. “Just because someone looks old doesn’t mean he or she is. The skin of some people who spend a lot of time outdoors seems to age very rapidly. Someone can look 80 or 90 and only be 40 to 50.”