The puckered face that many Yukoners display these days might be attributed to too much exposure to the non-stop sunlight, or to concentrated thinking about a good excuse to call in sick for work and spend the thus elongated weekend fishing.
These are, of course, two main reasons for the now somewhat wrinkled appearance of northerners.
But another cause for the mummified look must be loss of blood to the most ferocious and merciless predator on humans that haunts the North — mosquitoes.
Writing this column about life in the bush is fun for the most part, but at times fraught with its own set of peculiar difficulties. Such as the sudden, inexplicable loss of the satellite internet connection just as I want to send off my article.
Annoying as such outages are, they pale beside the challenge I am faced with now: trying to type while simultaneously swatting at the dozens of mosquitoes that are attacking me in my rather helpless position at the laptop.
When the internet connection quits, a not particularly helpful error message appears, blaming the outage on such varied possible reasons as the dish losing the satellite signal, deteriorated cables between the dish and the modem, the weather (of course) or problems of the internet provider.
I wonder why they don’t mention clouds of mosquitoes.
It always leaves us dry-mouthed and tense since the invisible signal into space also carries our phone line.
We could still get a message out in case of emergency, via a relay of people over HF or VHF radios, but that is not a form of communication that lends itself to solving internet connection problems with the help of a computer nerd on a phone down south.
Or to getting the column out, for that matter. Luckily, so far the system always miraculously recovered within a short time with only minor contributions from our end.
The bugs swarming around me are a more persistent problem and it is tricky while typing to dispose of the squashed casualties without getting them stuck in the keyboard.
An unhealthy number, somewhere upwards of 50, make daily attempts to colonize the inside of our cabin.
I try to take a romantic view of the mosquito net that now festoons our bed, but at night the only recourse to sleep is by jamming ear plugs tight into my skull to shut off the insistent whine of the blood suckers on the other side of the net.
Half-heartedly, we light mosquito coils when its gets really bad inside the cabin, but we usually end up extinguishing these before the bugs are dead because it always feels as if we might also succumb to the toxic fumes, even after vigorously airing the cabin.
During our first summer here, we had merely thought that it was a bad year.
The next bug season, alas, brought the same massive assault and caused Sam to wonder in hushed tones: “Do you think that mosquitoes have something like a memory?”
“Memory? Can’t imagine that,”, I replied. “But just consider that now that we live here, they have a constant food source in one location — the dogs and us. And before, they had to fly all over the place to feed”, explained Sam.
I blanched at this horror movie scenario.
Could it be… ? How else to explain the gathering of clouds of bugs around and inside the cabin?
We have since become somewhat resigned to the yearly invasion. After an onslaught of what always seems like unprecedented numbers and that lasts about four weeks, the rest of the summer is usually quite bearable.
And yet, every year when the overnight explosion of the mosquito population happens, Sam declares: “They have to come in somewhere! There must be cracks between the logs.”
As every year, I mutely point at the door that we open dozens of times during the day, and at the dogs that wander in and out, each loaded down with a cargo of blood suckers.
“We can’t get that many bugs in here like that,” insists Sam and starts his annual inspection of the cabin for minute gaps.
As he jams wool into some microscopic crack, muttering under his breath, I wonder if over the decades we will ever develop the sort of acceptance to these pests as some people in hot climates have to flies crawling over them.
I picture myself sitting at the laptop, 30 mosquitoes attached to my skin like so many leeches, and serenely typing away.
Shuddering at the thought, I flick a dead bug off the computer screen and decide to send this off before the internet signal gets deflected by millions of mosquito wings.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.