Now I know how the Sun feels. Center of the Solar System. Objects orbiting in circular and elliptical paths. Some in close formation, others seeking loftier trajectories. Swirling, swirling, swirling. All this circular and angular momentum taking place while simultaneously darting through the vastness of space - like two dancers spinning around a central axis, yet still travelling forward as one functional unit across the parquet dance floor. Perpetual motion.
But instead of a giant sphere of runaway nuclear fusion, the center of this solar system is the noggin on my shoulders. The trajectory is not through empty space, but rather along a sandy path in the woods. And instead of rocky and gaseous planets circling in fixed paths, the satellites under my gravitational pull are the most annoying of insects - horseflies. Yep, sounds like summertime in the New Jersey woods. I’m sure you’ve experienced the phenomenon - annoying flying insects circling and buzzing around your head, invading your personal space, staying in regular orbit even as you move forward.
A recent camping trip to Bass River State Forest was another memorable family outing. There was a clean, cool lake as refuge from the early summer heat wave. There were sightings of small mammals and amphibians, those instant kid smile producers. And there was the ever-present unique and picturesque Pinelands ecosystem. For a few precious days, we played unconnected and unwired, we ate s’mores unapologetically, and we lived uncomplicated.
But a lasting impression of this patch of South Jersey will surely be the flies, midges, and who knows what else circling around my head. If I were an entomologist I may have been in my element. But I’m not. So, I took off my hat and started swatting at the encircling pests all while pushing a stroller forward along the sandy path. The biggest fly, I named him Jupiter, was the first to take a direct hit from my hat. Considerably smaller Pluto, non-planet or not, proved problematic and just out of my reach. At one point green-headed Mercury made a landing on my neck and bit me just before I triumphantly smashed him from the solar system. Later, tasting success, my hat was flailing non-stop as I picked up my walking pace to simultaneously destroy and escape the little maniacs. To an outside observer, some distant camp astronomer in the woods, I must have looked like a spasmodic stroller safari guide.
Such is the price we pay to escape our urban surroundings for a taste of nature and a reasonably representative, if imprecise, sample of our distant past. Camping is not all primal campfires, dark starry skies, and nature hikes. It comes with the occasional freak storm, scattered growths of poison ivy, and yes, maybe a solar system of green-headed, irritating insects. That’s why they call them bugs, right?. Still, given the rewards, these are minor nuisances compared to project deadlines and house chores. In other words, give me a campsite over the office any day of the week.