What a Tick

July 8, 2017

Our first 2017 tick sighting happened in May.

There he was on our bedroom wall, not far from my pillow. At first I thought he was a spider—I love spiders, I do—but up close there was no doubt. Eight legs skittering in unison, a flat, dark sesame seed-like body, a needly head like the point of a pen, all hunched up for attachment. A tick for sure. I grabbed a wad of toilet paper and took aim. He stopped moving and raised both of his long forelegs, sweeping the air like antennae, searching for signals. Could he sense I was there? I dabbed the wad down with a shudder but I was too humane about it. He just kept crawling, flat against the wall. It took three more hard slams to end his run. The 2017 Cow Bay Tick Festival was on.

Since then, I’ve found a tick on my arm in bed; I found one fully chomping on my calf; I’ve brushed ticks from my daughters’ necks, ankles, hair; I’ve seen dozens crawling around our brush. Everyone in the Bay has a good tick story. It’s the talk of the town—our first official infestation! Somehow this tiny bug has burrowed into our psyches and made us wary of our wilderness.


So I researched. You’ve probably done some reading yourself. And if you haven’t, I’ll give you what I believe is the key piece of knowledge for any resident of Ticksville, which comes directly from the Nova Scotian government: “Even if a tick carries the bacteria, it can only pass Lyme disease to a human or animal if it has filled itself with blood. This takes at least 24 hours.” In other words, you don’t need to DEET bomb your yard in a hazmat suit to have fun. Just check for the bastards once in a while. Don’t let them fog your brain with paranoia.


And speaking of brain fog, has anyone perused the news lately? I’ve been hiding under a rock, but the clownish spectre of Donald Trump keeps wafting into my worldview like a poisonous fart. Now, every time I see a tick, which is almost daily, the twisted face and cloying hands of Donald Trump appear. So I took the simile for a walk. Here are 7 ways Ticks are like Trump:

  1. Ticks Are Audacious: ticks are bold, brash, in-your-face and on-your-face. They will snag onto any warm body, from sparrows to moose. They have no idea where they’re going when they catch a ride, but they go anyway. Ticks think they can do whatever the hell they want.
  2. Ticks are Ubiquitous: ticks know how to go viral. First they’re nowhere, then they’re everywhere. Ticks invade your mental space so effectively that you have no choice but to think about them, even if you loath them.
  3. Ticks Are Vapid: ticks are the ultimate surface thinker. They have nothing of substance to say. They are all action, no intellect.
  4. Ticks Are Rash: one minute a tick is hanging on a blade of grass, “questing” with its sticky forelegs, taking the air. The next, it’s riding a deer like a bucking bronco, ready to munch skin and suck blood. Cavalier. Ticks make snap judgments all the time.
  5. Ticks Act Invincible: try to squash a tick. I dare you.
  6. Ticks Are Boastful: look at a tick after 24 hours (hopefully not behind your ear). It is positively engorged with pride. All puffed up, ready to spout its greatness to whoever follows its feed.
  7. Ticks Are Fearmongers: even though Lyme disease-carrying blacklegged ticks are quite rare, Regular Joe ticks strike fear into the heart of residents, especially parents. Fear brings attention. Fear brings power. Fear makes a host even tastier.

And I’m sure you can think of your own parallel, right? So, what to do but never frolic barefoot through a meadow again?


Richard Louv’s 2005 book Last Child in the Woods is badass. After ten years of research, he came up with a non-medical diagnosis dubbed Nature-Deficit Disorder. He says kids are spending less time in wild nature, and here’s why: 1) increased parental fears, 2) increased restricted access to natural areas, and 3) increased lure of electronic devices. Louv claims the consequences are real when we tune out nature’s frequency.

In conclusion, Donald Trump is a tick. He has successfully sucked the air out of the proverbial room. He keeps us on edge, feeding us bite-sized sliders of fear. He also has sticky fingers. So may I leave you with something rather gross but hopeful? It’s a tick’s life cycle, according to the Center for Disease Control. Check it: “The life cycle of blacklegged ticks generally lasts two years. During this time, they go through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult.” Two years! So that means we’ll be Trump-free by 2018, right? Wishful thinking.

Lyme disease is no joke, but neither is evacuating ourselves from nature. So let’s stay wild, let’s live with a little risk. Don’t let ticks or Trump dominate the narrative. Ticks are dicks. We must squash the paranoia. We must stay free of fabricated fear. Frolic we must!

Ryan Shaw