My camping adventures have always brought to mind the observation of my old friend, Thomas Hobbes (d. 1679), who said that life in the state of nature is “short, brutish, and nasty.” I can vouch for the nasty part. Give Mother Nature a few days and she'll do her best to reduce you to utter nastiness. Give her a few weeks and you’ll become unrecognizable. So serious misgivings arose when I agreed to go on yet another camping trip.
My trip was nasty. But I enjoyed myself and made a number of new acquaintances. And I was flattered to learn that many of these acquaintances had become genuinely attached to me. And when I got home some of them were still attached, and these were the wood ticks I had picked up on my body.
Since I had more than just a couple of them, I wanted to remove them in the safest manner. I had heard if you burn them off instead of brutally yanking them, the ticks don't release their pathogens into you––but I might have gotten them mixed up with leeches. At any rate, I figured that burning was the way to go. So armed with matches, I went after them.
Considering the locations of some of these ticks, my expedition became a hit or miss affair. There was a surprising amount of smoke and flames and some collateral damage to the epidermis. But a dozen matches later I was rid of them, although it wasn't so much precision warfare as it was a scorched earth campaign.
Looking back however, I felt that I hadn't been a very good host to those ticks. I began to realize those tiny creatures wanted nothing more than to be close to me. In fact, a special bond had formed between us. No friend or family member had been so close. No lover and I, even in our most tender moments had ever been so intimately connected. Well, not for that long.
We all praise the faithfulness of dogs. But the tick has been sadly neglected for its fidelity. No matter how difficult life might have gotten, those ticks would have stuck with me. I could have joined a foreign war, found myself pinned down with bullets ricocheting everywhere and those little comrades would have never deserted me.
I was more than just a host. I was nourishing them with my lifeblood. They were more like children. And yet I carbonized them. Just for wanting to be close to me.
Perhaps you're a parent. You come home after a difficult day and your children scramble around, clinging to you. You may not be at your chummiest, but surely you wouldn't whip out your blowtorch and incinerate them.
All right. Maybe those ticks really weren’t like children. Still, we might have become friends. We could have had sleepovers, watched movies, taken bubble baths.