Dare we utter an unkind word about the countryside? Long celebrated as an oasis of tranquility, beauty and simplicity, why cast a critical eye in that direction? How does one question lush meadows, inviting shady woods, bubbling brooks, fields of haystacks, stately barns, cows grazing lazily along rolling hills? Add to that, spectacularly adorned butterflies, the aroma of freshly cut grass, birds chirping happily, puffy cumulus clouds, sparkling night skies, roadside flowers of bewildering variety and the inevitable swinging screen door. Such are the bucolic delights that adorn many a calendar page and folk art canvass. Concentrated in our cities and in our increasingly congested suburbs, the country represents a welcome get away – simpler and wholesome, more natural and beautiful.
But there are dissenting views that suggest that close up the country is not without blemish or menace. Approach those contented cows, and you discover that each is a magnet for clouds of bothersome flies. Only by continually flicking their tails are they able to gain temporary respite. Exit the screen door and be prepared to defend yourself against an array of aggressive insects; best not to offend or provoke a passing bee, wasp or hornet. Bathe yourself in repellent if you need to, but don’t expect to escape the inevitable bites and persistent itching compliments of opportunistic mosquitoes.
Take a walk along a delightful country path, but don’t imagine you are alone since you may soon be attacked by squadrons of bugs. Most disconcerting are the gnats and flies which, seemingly possessed, target your eyes and ears. Swatting them aside is fruitless. Impossible to discourage, they are relentless. Should you at this point decide upon a swim, other assailants await. You may soon be defending yourself against ferocious horseflies which circle overhead menacingly before landing to deliver a bite decidedly sharp and painful. Submerging brings but a brief reprieve. Resurface and you’re once again targeted.
Finally, consider the fact that the country presents best in the late spring, summer and early fall. At other times, especially in winter, its attractions diminish and it becomes noticeably drab, uninviting and fallow. Fallen trees are exposed, as are myriads of decaying leaves. Fields are bare, birds migrate, animals retreat and rural folk keep mostly to themselves.
No one reading this will, as a consequence, forsake the countryside. But they’d best be on their guard and recognize that an honest reckoning should include its annoyances, along with its enduring delights.