I apologize for the following. It is long, self-serving at times, frequently digresses and is a little preachy. It also refers to personal health and hygiene matters that work for me, but are not for everyone. Read at your own risk.
The acceptable rule of thumb in rural areas seems to be: it’s not trespassing until the house/cabin/barn, etc. is in sight of the intruder. I have had many visits from strangers who cross the river, walk up the hill and when they see the cabin, call out for permission to continue or go the other way, when in fact, they were committing trespass the instant they crossed the river. It’s not that I am anti-social or really mind people coming onto the property; I just like to have a part in choosing when and with whom I want to socialize. I’ve often thought of putting a large brass bell down by the river with a sign that suggests that if I don’t respond the ringing of the bell in the next five minutes (how long it would take to me to walk to the river overlook) it would indicate I was not accepting visitors at the moment. The problem with the bell is that it would violate one of my rules of possession which states: If I would worry about someone taking a possession (the bell), then I really don’t want it. Perhaps I could have a sign that says they should honk their vehicle horn 4 times, wait five minutes... if I don’t respond, don’t come over. (Digression) Walt Disney, in the early theme park days at Disneyland didn’t believe in using direction or instructional signs in his parks. For one thing, he discovered that when people are put into a new visually rich environment they didn’t notice signs. He also thought it would be better to have real people stationed in key areas to direct people. I think he was right on both counts, although, if you visit a Disney park these days, they are filled with signs. Anyway……..
It was raining yesterday, a great day to read a book and smoke a Swisher Sweet Outlaw Double Barrel Rum Cigar by the fire. Dooley was outside because he doesn’t like being around when I smoke indoors even though most of the smoke draws up the chimney. Around mid-morning Dooley indicated there might be someone coming. Cigar in hand I moved out to the porch and sure enough we had unannounced visitors. There were two women and a County Deputy Sheriff. Dooley and I both looked at each other wondering what the other had done to provoke a visit from the law.
Following the rural trespass rule they stopped and asked permission to continue to the cabin. I invited them over. The two women came forward and the Deputy stayed back a ways. They introduced themselves as nurses for the County Health Department. They informed me it was Flu season and they were offering free flu shots to some of the more isolated residents of the County. (I guess the Deputy was just there for protection from crazy hermits). I explained that I was not really interested in introducing artificial enhancements to my immune system. (I really just said, “No thanks.”)
“You can never be too careful when it comes to influenza”, they said.
At this point Dooley had already walked away. He anticipated that I was about to rant about the sterilization of America and how I believed it was the avoidance of bacteria, viruses and parasites made American’s more susceptible to the illnesses they work so hard to avoid. These “nasty’s” are after all living things and as such when their existence is threatened by vaccines, hand sanitizers and antibiotics they will naturally evolve their own immunity to the threat. By living a sterile life we don’t allow our wonderfully adaptive immune systems that have worked so well for thousands of years to develop protection from pathogenic organisms. For example international travelers often get diarrhea from eating and drinking foods and beverages that have no adverse effects on local residents. This is due to immunity that develops with constant, repeated exposure to pathogenic organisms. The over use of fluorides, mouthwashes, daily bathing and antibiotics also eliminate good bacteria that we need for natural health. The trick, I believe, is to create a balance, to live symbiotically with these little creatures. (Warning! Another digression is coming up).
I believe my thinking on this goes back to when I played football in junior high school. I played the first year our school had a football team. The protective equipment we used that year were hand- me-downs from the local high school. The shoes had old fashioned metal tipped nylon cleats. Because they had been pre-worn the metal tips had been ground down into razor sharp edged weapons. In practice the coaches would try us out in different positions. One day I was put on the defensive line which meant I was on the ground a lot and my hands got stepped on just about every play. It didn’t take long before I noticed I was bleeding between just about every finger from being stepped on by those dastardly metal cleats. Between plays I ran over to one of the coaches to show him the injuries expecting some kind of first aid like my mom had always done with peroxide and bandages. Instead, he said, “Rub some dirt on your hands and get back in there”. I did… and nothing bad happened. My fingers didn’t fall off, the wounds didn’t get infected, I didn’t get tetanus or lock-jaw like my parents had always led me to believe would happen. My body had worked like it was supposed to and kept me safe.
In the nearly five years I have lived here in the woods I don’t recall ever having a cold, flu, diarrhea, infection or even a headache (knock on wood). I’m sure a lot of that is due to not having much contact with other people and the lack of stress. But another part is the fact that I don’t live a sterile life. When I prepare meals, I don’t worry about “cross contamination”. I rarely wash my hands. I handle the raw bacon, break the eggs with my hands, cook and then eat without any concern for parasites or salmonella. I only bathe when I feel sticky or expect to interact with other people. I do brush my teeth on a regular basis but I use a soda based home-made paste. I have no qualms about sipping rainwater from my collection system or water from one of the upper creeks. I would not drink from the river or Rock Creek because these waters are a dumping site for residents along the banks and are a mixture of pesticides, oil and carcinogenic chemicals that no human immune system could stand up to. If I were ranting, this is where I would talk about how healthcare in this society is not so much a service as it is a business with products and procedures to sell. They generate fear of possible, but statistically improbable consequences, and then sell products (antibiotics, Lysol, pre-emptive surgery and procedures, anti-bacterial soaps, blood tests, antiseptics, antihistamines, etc. to “save us” from the evil germs. The greater the fear, the better the business. I must say do have respect and awe for medical professionals when it comes to trauma and life changing illnesses. Their approach to common pathogenic organisms, however, seems counter- productive to me. Anyway……
Dooley was wrong. I didn’t rant to the nurses. I did, however, display one of my worst character flaws…..I attacked their knowledge. I do this when “authorities” present arguments or suggest a behavior I don’t agree with. It’s not a nice thing to do and I always feel bad afterwards but sometimes I find out my own thinking was wrong. Often, however, I discover the “authorities” haven’t really done much research or independent thinking on the very things they are authorities on.
“Although I am not interested in the Flu shot, perhaps you can answer a question for me….why does the flu virus have a season?” I asked innocently.
“Well, it’s just the time when the flu affects the most people.” one nurse answered.
“But, why? What is the science behind it? Does the virus hibernate the rest of the year?”
“I suppose it’s because……..” the other nurse began.
“You suppose?” I rudely interrupted, “Don’t you know?”
They didn’t have an answer. (The truth is, no one really knows. The best guess is that the virus can survive longer outside of its host when the air is dryer and therefore spreads with greater effectiveness in the winter months on this hemisphere.)
“Then can you tell me which of the many strains of the flu virus this particular shot is effective against and are they ones that have shown up in this region?” I asked expectantly.
The nurses looked at each other and then politely suggested I call the health department with these kinds of questions. I sensed they had already labeled me as a grumpy old crackpot.
“Gee”, I said, “I would have expected a couple of nurses to know more about what they were roaming around the County injecting into peoples arms.” That came out meaner than I meant, so I tried to follow with a softer line. I really did try…
“I appreciate that you are trying to do a good thing here, but just by visiting you have increased my chances of getting the flu. You may have picked up the virus at one of your other stops and brought it to me….and how does the Health Department measure the effectiveness of this flu shot? If you gave me the shot and I didn’t get the flu, does that necessarily mean the flu shot was effective, or does it mean I just didn’t come into contact with the virus or my own immune system dealt with it? It seems we spend a lot of money in this country to create a “poison pill” for a virus that will just evolve resistance and come back stronger next “season”. Wouldn’t it be better if we just accepted that occasionally we will have to suffer through an illness and let our own immune systems grow a little stronger as a result? Viruses are just a part of life on this planet and if we learned to live with them and not put up such a fight I think a balance might be created where sometimes the virus wins and sometimes we win but the battle doesn’t escalate to the point of the virus evolving past our ability to stop it.”
Oh, Lord, Dooley was right…I did rant.
I expected the nurses to retort with the old “Better to be safe than sorry” line...but instead they smartly moved right to their exit line.
“Do you have any other health questions we could answer for you while we are here?”
I thought about asking if soaking my feet in a solution of bleach would help a toenail fungus but I was feeling a little guilty for spouting off so I just said “No, but thank you.”
The trespassing trio disappeared over the hill. I re-lit my Swisher Sweet Outlaw Double Barrel Rum Cigar and went back inside to continue my quiet morning of reading. In the back of my head I was certain that if there was such a thing as Karma I’d be getting the flu this year.