This past weekend I was canoeing. Not a real revelation to those who know me, but all the same, there I was paddling away when the flies started biting. This part was unusual. Normally the insects don’t really bother us and hence neither my paddling partner nor I thought to bring bug spray. Soon it was J-stroke, slap, C-stoke, slap, as we headed up the river. A mile or so later a storm blew in and we found ourselves in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Standing on the muddy shore, only slightly better equipped for the weather than the insects, I couldn’t help but think of all those questing heroes I’ve read about over the years – Bilbo Baggins, Maia (Journey to the River Sea), Katsa (Graceling), and (my most recent read) The Tapestry series. Sure, the weather and temperature are always mentioned in the likes of these tales but never the insects. And anyone who has tried to picnic, garden or walk through the forest preserve knows that are ALWAYS insects.
So, why is the buzz of the most prolific creature on earth left out of these stories? I don’t know. More readers can relate to being dinner for mosquitos than being tasked with a quest. And what brings home the misery of a trip more than the long painful sting of a wasp? That reminds me! Bud (of Bud, Not Buddy) had an encounter with wasps that didn’t seem to have any lingering effect. There, I remember thinking as I listened to the audiobook, is an author who has never been stung by a bee and suffered without medical attention. Bud’s multiple wasp stings certainly would have swelled, provided distracting pain, and could likely have caused even more serious side effects.
A truly good book touches all our senses. Sight, sound and smell are easy. Taste is usually evoked with a sense of satisfaction or decadence. Touch however is underused. I want to know more about the soft pillow our hero finally puts her head down on, or the way the tree bark snags on her dry skin as she hides in a tree, and most certainly about the nagging bug bit that makes her squirm as she is trying to stare down her foe. Now, that has the ring of truth.