Imagine sleeping all night with the cool evening breeze from your bedroom window caressing your face. The morning sun begins to light the sky, gently, slowly waking you, while doves coo outside your screenless window. You rise and walk to that window, stretching arms wide into the freshly rinsed air from the late night rain.
In every state I’ve ever lived in, this would not have the fairy tale-movie happy ending, where all the forest animals bring you coffee and toast in bed. In the states, you would peer at your newly wakened self in the mirror and gasp at the welts the mosquitos have raised all over your face. The opossum that entered through your window in the night scurries past your feet in terror, wondering how to get out. Mud dauber wasps have begun a nest in the corner of your ceiling, and is that a BAT? And this is if you live in a small enough or rural enough town that you can be sure, well, pretty sure, that no two-legged varmint has come and gone through that screenless open window.
But France can get pretty close to the fairy-tale vision. When I first asked the relo lady why the windows had no screens, and if it was because France has no bugs, she looked at me like I had grown a third eye. She told me that OF COURSE they have bugs. They live with them. I just could not get my head around it. The reason, see, is because she HAS NO IDEA. Yes, France has bugs. We are living with open windows, and every few days a fly wanders in. We bought fly swatters. Twice I have heard teeny, tiny little buzzing mosquitos, and once I think one bit me. A gnat was sort of hovering while I checked my email yesterday morning. Once a neighborhood cat tried to check us out. We get a few moths after dark when the lights are on, but folks, that’s pretty much it in the three weeks we’ve been living here. The relo lady has obviously never experienced American pests.
American mosquitos never, NEVER travel alone, and they are BIG suckers. You hear an American mosquito buzz, and you don’t look around wondering where it is; you’ll SEE it. American gnats travel in clouds, maybe even cloud BANKS. Yes, I have cleaned out wasp and mud dauber nests from inside houses, and that is houses WITH screens. And don’t get me started on the flies! And yes, you will find snakes, bats, and birds in houses in the States, despite our best attempts to seal them out. I have been visited by opossums, skunks, raccoons, and armadillos, and had the door to the porch been open, I am sure some of those visitors would have accepted the invitation. And I would genuinely feel unsafe sleeping with windows and sliding glass doors open in a comparably sized city back home. Or even unlocked.
Here, everyone is doing it. And I DID wake up this glorious morning to the mourning doves and the fresh, rain-swept breeze, and leaned out my open window to greet the day. Amazing!