The Fox Wedding
The mosquitoes were worse than I had ever experienced. I could see their abdomens swell with blood and turn red as they sucked from my skin. When I would swat and squish them the amount of blood that exploded was astonishing. One had made its way inside my head net and when I crushed it a thick drop of blood fell from the mesh. A mosquito landed on my right hand and I brought down my left upon it with a satisfying smack. I pulled my hand back only to reveal the mosquito still there, completely unscathed. Confused, I looked at the palm of my left hand and found a crushed mosquito. I had killed it and another had taken its place almost instantaneously. I could feel them buzzing around the inside of my shirt. My legs itched with bites despite wearing pants - they were flying up inside my pant legs to feed on me. On occasion I would pull my maps from the cargo pocket of my hiking pants and find mosquitoes squished between their folds. I passed a southbounder who assured me they would disappear in twenty miles or so. Whenever I met a southbounder I wished to ask them a million questions. They were like omniscient beings who knew what my future held - oracles who appeared before me on the trail to prophesy.
I sat at Charlton Lake and ate my lunch as a light rain fell, glinting in the sun. Whenever I experience a sunshower I think of the kitsune no yomeiri, or fox wedding, from Japanese folk tales. According to the legend, on a day when rain and sun appear simultaneously a fox is marrying his bride. In Akira Kurosawa's film Dreams, he portrays the supernatural wedding procession in a beautiful, yet eerie way - something not meant to be witnessed by human eyes. In the scene a young boy hides amidst a grove of ancient cedar trees as the procession emerges from billowing fog. Flute and percussion accompany the slow movement of the foxes, their faces white as alabaster, as they proceed in unison along the forest trail one slow step at a time, at moments becoming completely still or darting their heads quickly and dramatically to one side as if listening for intruders. The boy hides cautiously behind a cedar but is eventually discovered. He flees the forest and returns home to his stern mother, only to learn that a fox has visited and left for him a dagger. The dark and somber implication is that he must commit suicide to make amends for his intrusion. He sets off toward the mountains, through a meadow of wildflowers, to find the foxes and beg their forgiveness.
I encountered a thru-hiker named Bambi as he sat blocking the trail, looking forlorn and completely exhausted and perhaps a bit stoned. He seemed to be struggling and I felt as if I were intruding on him and witnessing something that I was not meant to see. He glanced up at me and the expression on his face communicated exactly what he was thinking. Fuck, I have to get up. He mustered whatever energy he had left and lethargically moved aside. We made small talk and I mentioned, "Some southbounders said that the mosquitoes should let up here pretty soon." He stared at me with a look of confusion and was silent for a few seconds. "You mean, like, tonight?" he finally asked.
As I situated myself within my shelter and got ready for bed my digital voice recorder was somehow switched on and I unknowingly recorded myself in the midst of a low point, the type of small melt-downs that inevitably occur when you are alone and feeling burnt out, but which quickly fade from memory as they are overshadowed by far better memories of beauty and adventure. I discovered the recording long after completing the trail and heard myself raw and exposed and vulnerable. As I had intruded upon Bambi there on the trail, in the midst of some private moment of misery that no one else was meant to witness, I felt as if I were intruding upon my past self as I listened to my own childish mutterings of discontent. Without any context its hard to remember exactly what I was complaining about, aside from perhaps mosquitoes. It simply sounds like the expletive-laden ramblings of some lunatic. Was this what I sounded like every night as I prepared to fall asleep? Is this what I sounded like as I hiked along the trail muttering to myself? They are a far cry from the poetic thoughts I recorded in my daily journals.
Goddammit, this is so ridiculous.
That's not good, whatever the fuck that is [referring perhaps to a blister or cut on my foot].
Ugh, what a horrible smell.
I don't even know what the fuck's going on there [referring to some other injury, rash, blister or abrasion].
Is there another one in here [wondering if a mosquito made it into the tent]?
[Indecipherable muttering, followed by another moment of flatulence]
Its been a long time out here. Doing the same fucking shit every fucking day.
Is it really 9:30 already?
Ugh, itches so much. When did that one happen? Must be a fucking mosquito in here.
Goddamn man. Oh, these fucking mosquitoes. Fucking up my life.