Monday, July 30, 2012

NY missive no 113 - Mosquitoes and fireflies

During the first few weeks of JNH’s life his look was mainly one of wide-eyed bring-it-on acceptance. He was curious but also seemed trusting as if to say “ah, so this is the world. That’s fine by me, lemme at it.”

So far CMH’s look is more wisely-wary. As if to say “ah, so this is the world. Let’s reserve judgement.” Of course that approach may be influenced by the fact that he’s well aware there is a big brother already here and that he is already competing for – or I should say sharing – his parents’ love and attention.


This has been a hot Summer so far in NYC. With the heat come mosquitoes. They're one thing in the garden with its unkempt grass, but in the bedroom they're quite another, I’d say unacceptable, the way that despite a screen designed to prevent them they interrupt with their whirring and persistent stings the place where you hope to be most at peace. Poor CMH woke up this morning with bites on his tiny arms and forehead.

I have a bad habit of scratching the bites on my legs which makes them last longer as red marks. That makes me feel particularly Englishwoman-in-New-York-y in the sense of not tolerating the climate, and it not yet tolerating me. Which, other than the mosquitoes, is not the case: it wasn’t long before I felt at home here.


A few months ago I looked out of our third floor window to the small garden below as night was falling. I felt like it was firefly season and about time I saw some. So I kept staring. Then when a single orange flash appeared I was strangely unsure if it was real or in my imagination. I stared some more and thought perhaps I’ll never know if they are real again. I continued to wonder as another flash, and another, appeared and the wonderfully unpredictable dance of firefly lights got under way.

Then, more recently, I looked out and saw just two over a longish period – not the right weather, or the season ending maybe. In the sky behind them there was some sheet lightening from an approaching storm. It reminded me of a far more dramatic yet in my mind now parallel scene. When I was 13 my family spent three weeks in Venezuela where Dad often goes for work (our holidays weren't usually so exotic - to the South of England or to France). One evening we were brushing our teeth by the CaronĂ­ river, which we were travelling up by boat to reach the Angel Falls. The opposite bank was a black strip of jungle aflame with thousands of fireflies while sheet lightening lit the sky in flashes above. I was awed.

The scene here in Astoria was more domestic. The fireflies, which as mentioned were just a couple not a multitude, were in a tangled patch of urban garden. The backdrop wasn’t jungle but a large apartment building on the block behind ours – a great flat rectangle of a construction whose windows offer glimpses into the lives inside at night – and to the west of that the beaded white lights of the Triboro’ Bridge forming triangles leading to Manhattan and the Bronx. I was still awed. By the rhythm at work between the insects, the sky and the human interventions. By the sense of myself watching through the window unobserved. And by the overlapping of the two scenes in my mind, past and present.