By Michael Suchorsky

Springtime in the Catskills is a virtual love fest. Trees are in leaf break, flowers exploding in a multitude of color across the landscape that is alive with song as winter birds and spring arrivals set up their dominions.

This is not virtual reality. This is hyper reality. Enveloping one in a three-dimensional sensory experience of the 5 senses that one can move through; not sit in–though that option is available.

There are drawbacks, for reality has its own agenda. We participate. A certain degree of direction is always possible, but it is elusive at times. Reality moves outside our appointed rounds. We are all hungry, and reality bites back.

The evening has choreographed a dance of the latest bloom of black flies and my spring-driven, twitterpated self.

The sparkling sunshine smiling down on this valley of 70-degree temperatures and no humidity calls me forth to my front deck to work, like a bee to a blossom. As the sun sets behind my mountain, reflecting its multi-colored departure upon the clouds floating above the mountains to the east, I set up my work space and the black flies take note.

I hear the ethereal songs of the hermit thrush and veery in the woods below. I see the newly arrived scarlet tanagers, hummingbirds and vireos now flit about reassessing their summer world.

Aligning all the citronella candles to my right, to take advantage of the almost imperceptible breeze moving from the northwest, I sit working while filled with a sense of power and fulfillment as the invisible scent floats past me and keeps an army of black flies 12 inches off my left shoulder. A transparent liquid silk shroud encapsulating me. Each time I glance to my left to view the horde dancing just out of striking distance I smile and feel the power that comes with being a master of my universe. But things change.

The black flies slowly grow more voracious, more strident in their attempts. Bold incursions are launched and to my chagrin I find that my concentration is repeatedly diverted by the tickle of investigating flies, which, of course, could very well mean they have injected me with their anesthetic and are already stealthily partaking of my body.

Fish and mergansers send ripples across my pond while a rabbit, that at this moment I swear is a philosopher, observes me from the center grass strip in my dirt drive. I listen to an almost non-stop song of robins, catbirds, chestnut-sided warblers and the common yellowthroat. (Whose name I always felt did not capture the boldness of its bright yellow plumage and black facemask. Surely a name like “masked bandit” would be more appropriate and allow the bird a bit more attitude–not that he is lacking.) Nevertheless, the spring celebration is in full swing and I am not about to be driven indoors by the renewed assault of the black flies.

I bring out the heavy guns. Bug spray with DEET–first application of the season. Never a moment to savor but it is as certain as death and taxes and leaves an impression on my mental calendar. Now it is time to get back to work.

The sky slowly begins to shift to a darker blue, and the last of the bumblebees visit the rhododendron blossoms that fill the space in front of the porch before heading off to their dreams for the night. But the black flies are legion and are fully deployed. They look like distant hang gliders in the darkening sky. Having restored my place at the top of the food chain I offer them my arm. They back away like wind blown balloons and my smile is reinstated.

I love Springtime in the Catskills. ~

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