Friday, July 3, 2015

The Poison Ivy Garden

There's the garden by the house, which is blessedly free of poison ivy. Every now and then when I'm weeding, I come across a small leaf; I used to wonder where it came from, but now I know that the birds bring the berries to eat, and sometimes one gets away from them, or else it's embedded in the bird poo. Whatever. I quickly pull it up.

I wrote this poem about it a few years ago:

Poison Ivy

Even the hairy brown roots, tangling in the leaves I rake

Away from the emerging hyacinth shoots

Can give me their miserable oil.

Under the garden, the vines are entrenched,

Roots networked efficiently and randomly.

Manipulative, controlling, scheming,  calculating.

They leave their weeping, itching mark

 on all who brush against them.

Purple tracks of it

Tattoo my arms –

Dotted swiss mosquito bites,

Taffeta blisters –

Nature’s palpable designs.


One of the three gardens in the woods is another story.  I've written about them in the past.  Two of them were begun by Sister Jean Marie back in the 1970's, and after  she became elderly and died, in the 1990's they were left to return to nature.  In 2005, I rediscovered them and began to clear them, and by 2006 and 7, they were in very good shape.

I called this one the Saint Joseph garden because
hidden in a far corner was this statue of Saint Joseph.
I called this one the Miraculous Medal garden, because Sister Jean Marie had put the design from the back of the Miraculous Medal in stone in the ground - twelve five-pointed concrete stars around the oval, and all.
In 2006, I spent my Christmas money on a garden arch that was very much on sale, and the grounds guys installed it that Spring  as a gateway to that garden.
Unfortunately, now the same garden looks like this:
Then, in 2008, I got cancer, and underwent a grueling treatment that successfully killed the cancer but almost killed me.   After that, I stopped working on the two gardens in the woods.
Now, they look like something out of Sleeping Beauty, when the castle is completely hidden by the vines and brambles...and, no doubt, by poison ivy.
I didn't take any "before" photos of the jungle out there, but trust me, it was bad.  It's still bad, but it's better. One of the other sisters has taken on the Saint Joseph garden, which, mysteriously, has never been entangled much with poison ivy.  Not like the Miraculous Medal garden, which I have nicknamed the Poison Ivy Garden. 
Last week I went out there to try and cut away some of the seemingly impenetrable vines, so that the lilies I planted ten years ago could make their way to the sunlight and bloom.
In the process, even though I was wearing gloves and long sleeves and long pants, the poison ivy got me. Some of the leaves were the size of dinner plates; very healthy and prosperous.
It only got me on my left forearm ( probably where the glove ended and the sleeve began) and when I removed the shirt later.
Of course, it looks worse in real life, and itches like crazy.  The remedies?
I'm using these more or less interchangeably. They all work pretty well. What really feels wonderful though, and stops the itching for many hours, is a minute with the hair dryer on hot, applied to the effective area.  :)
I had a worse case back in 2005 when I began to clear those gardens and didn't know I got poison ivy. I had never had it before, in all my years of birdwatching in the woods.
My college students suggested many hair-raising remedies which I did not try.  One told me that Tide, applied as a paste, was very effective.   One of the guys told me that he worked for a lawn service in the summer and when exposed to poison ivy, he poured GASOLINE on his arms.
No thanks!

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