Friday, June 03, 2011
I have a terrible case of phantom ivy: I know it's in my yard, and hence I itch. Even worse, I was pulling up weeds this morning. Worser, I might have been near where the ivy was, though I didn't know that until later when I had my gardening neighbor point out to me exactly which plants were poison ivy. The Girl Scouts lied; the leaves aren't necessarily shaped like mittens. But they are in clusters of three. Say it with me: leaves of three, let it be.
I'm not generally susceptible to scruples, but in the case of urushiol-bearing plants I'm willing to make an exception. I'm shaken in mind and purpose. Do I really itch, or is it all in my head? Should I touch the baby, even after washing my hands three times and my face once?
Those of us who share these epidermic trials understand each other. I still remember the case of poison ivy I had when I was nine, when it got between my fingers. I remember my brother's bout when it was between his toes. I remember huddling miserably in a ball, picking threads of cotton ball out of the pink patches of calamine lotion on my legs. I have no desire to relive these blistery episodes, and now I'm confronted with the culprit in my own yard. Damn you, poison ivy. You're so potent I don't even have to touch you to be infected with itchy doubts and forbodings.