Looking Down

Centipede on moss

Centipede on moss

After spending  a half hour or so at the hang gliding launch ramp on top of Lookout Mountain on Sunday, we decided to take the time to drive over to Cloudland Canyon.  Although we weren’t up for a long hike, the flat, easy walk along the cliff seemed about right for us.

I’m not sure why exactly, perhaps it was the sudden realization that the path we were on was bordered by poison ivy, but I started looking down.  Not down the cliffs so much–well, maybe some, but the view from the overlooks is spectacular and looking straight out is usually far more interesting than looking down.  Plus, looking down always makes me feel a little weak-kneed.

Evening primrose with a few remaining drops of water

Evening primrose with a few remaining drops of water

Rather, I found myself looking down at the occasional wildflower growing by the side of the path, the insects hanging out along the way, and at the pine warbler who decided to show himself just long enough for me to get my camera in position and then flit off.

I guess I should be grateful for poison ivy because it’s taught me to look down, look at what’s at my feet, and pay attention to where I’m stepping.  Who knows, it may have saved my life a time or two.

I thought this was a rhododendron, but after googling, I think its a hawthorn flower

I thought this was a rhododendron, but after googling, I think its a hawthorn flower

But, poison ivy is one of those plants that you’re either indifferent to or it strikes terror in your heart.  I spent the first 30 years of my life pretty much oblivious to poison ivy.  I wasn’t allergic to it.  Then one day, I was weeding in the garden of our first house.  I looked down at the handful of vines I was holding in my gloved hands and realized I was holding a bouquet of poison ivy.  Unconcerned, I set them in the yard waste pile and thought no more about it.

The next day, the part of my wrist that was above my glove and below my sleeve broke out in a rash.  Pretty soon, I had a 2-inch tall welt that was, at close inspection, a mound of bump on bump on bump.  It looked like it had been skinned across the top and clear liquid oozed out of it at such a rate that it ran down my arm.  It was truly disgusting.

More hawthorn/rhododendron

More hawthorn/rhododendron

That was the first time in my life I took steroids.  But I was sure happy to have them as an option!  Every since then, I have broken out with poison ivy every summer whether I come into contact with it or not.  I blamed the dogs for many years, but then the dogs died and I still broke out.  I became paranoid–I frequently jump away in terror when I see a Boxelder sapling, which resembles poison ivy at first glance.

As an offshoot of my paranoia, however, I now notice more plants and creepy-crawly things than I ever noticed before I felt like I had to continually be on the look out for my sworn enemy.

I'm not sure what these are, but they were pretty

I’m not sure what these are, but they were pretty


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