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THE FARTHERMOST VIEW

Selected Podpieces

ZIKA

On one of our morning walks last spring we saw one of our neighbors coming toward us, carrying what looked like a racquetball racquet. I figured he had found it floating in the harbor. Or perhaps he had been practicing his serves, whacking rocks out into the pond. As we approached he began swinging it wildly around his head, and I waved merrily in response.
“Pretty big mosquitoes today?” I said jovially when I was near enough.
“Yeah, but I carry this for the deerflies,” he said. He suddenly swept the racquet through the air about a quarter inch from my ear.
Pippin yelped and jumped back.
“Goodness,” I said.
“It electrocutes them,” he said happily. “Hear it sizzle?”
I leaned close and, sure enough, the racquet was buzzing. I said, “Jiminy.”

On a morning walk last month I came across a dead river otter, lying at the side of the road on one of the mown lawns in my neighborhood. What was he doing so far from water? I had woken up in the middle of the night before and heard the chilling screech of a – well, yes, a screech owl, and then his trilling as he sat somewhere in my yard, and I imagined all the Little Meadow Folk shivering in their grassy tunnels and the burrows they dig under my beans.
Pippin and Thurber, the Rescue Squad, were both snoring, as was My Companion. I don’t think I snore. I’ve never heard it, anyway.

There’s always something to complain about on Cape Cod. Not enough rain, too much sea level rise. Too many tourists, not enough workers. Not enough jobs, too many bills. Too many seals, too many sharks, not enough cod. Nothing for young people to do, too much to choose from for healthy retirees. Too much shade in my yard, too much sunlight let in by my devastated trees. Not enough rain, too many zucchini. Not enough rain. Not enough rain.

And today’s news from Florida is that aerial spraying of pesticides to kill the mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus has also killed thousands of honey bees. And a lot of other citizens of the insect world, I can guarantee you.

There’s nothing new under the sun. Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published more than half a century ago, but the pesticides keep on coming. Of course we’re scared of Zika. We’re scared of Bird flu, too. We’re scared of AIDS and botulism and Ebola and car crashes and terrorists and the dark and stepping on cracks and making fools of ourselves. I don’t know the answers to any of these fears.

Life is scary, but we want it to last a long time.
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