An Itchy Pity Party

What is the point of poison ivy? Can someone answer that for me, please? Having gone nearly four decades without any run-ins with the nasty three-leafed offender, I hardly ever gave it any thought. This highlights my folly, because it allowed me to smugly ignore the warning “leaves of three, let them be”.  I not only didn’t let them be, I brashly and aggressively tried banishing them from my property during a Labor Day weekend brush-clearing episode. Well, truth be told, I didn’t actually realize I was removing poison ivy. Nor did I realize that poison ivy could grow like a vine – as in Jack and the beanstalk-sized vines that were wrapping themselves around shrubs and climbing walls. So there I was pulling “weeds” like a woman possessed as I tried to compensate for having completely ignored this particular overgrown patch of yard all summer long. Needless to say, in this case ignorance was not bliss. Not my proudest yard care moment. Not. At. All.

And now, almost four weeks and a prescription of prednisone later, I am still itchy and my legs still look like I challenged a tiger to fight club, and lost. Admittedly the itch has subsided considerably and my legs now sport red splotches in place of “fluid filled vesicles” (thanks to my sister for that incredibly accurate but disturbing description), so there has been measurable improvement.  I’m impatient, though, and ready to move beyond this whole poison ivy incident. I don’t want diminished symptoms; I want to be symptom-free. I’d like to wear a pair of shorts again while there is still some temperate weather without eliciting stares and concerns that perhaps leprosy is on the rebound.  Do you notice this post is photo-free – I’m sparing you. Trust me, you’re grateful.

But seriously, back to my original question — why is there poison ivy? What is its function? If its ooze-inducing poison had some higher purpose, like protecting a rare, fragile yard nymph from extinction, or if it was an incredibly beautiful plant to look at, I might be more willing to accept its existence. But it seems to me that it has no real purpose at all, other than to put humans through an itchy misery should they come in contact with it.  It’s like the mean girl of the garden – rude and spiteful just because it can be, because it enjoys watching others suffer. A total beoch.

I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about poison ivy these past few weeks: home remedies (fyi, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, the hot water treatment seemed to provide the most relief), whether or not you can spread it (only the urushiol is poisonous, you can’t “spread” poison ivy through your disgusting, weeping vesicles; although folks will probably feel pretty ill just looking at them), the tenacity of poison ivy and its death-defying abilities (yes, it comes in plant and vine form, and apparently can remain poisonous for up to five years after the plant has been killed, and no matter what, do not try burning it to kill it!). If you’re feeling particularly adventuresome, the Internet can also serve up a bevy of pictures of extreme poison ivy rash, although I wasn’t very interested in those since I’m too busy having a pity party for my own case to start comparing ooze with other victims of the toxicodendron radicans plant.  I’ve also learned two other important lessons: (i) itchiness, just like sleepiness and hunger, can make a girl quite cranky – yikes, sorry family!, and (ii) there is no such thing as not scratching poison ivy, no way, no how. People who are able to refrain from scratching poison ivy are probably the same people who don’t pop zits and have never once polished off a pint of ice cream by themselves, and I don’t want to even know about those self-control-aholic people.

At this point, I’d like to call a truce with poison ivy. I figure we can co-exist in this world without the need for animosity or vengeance. I’ll occupy my space, it can occupy its own (preferably on an isolated plot of land surrounded by barbed wire with a large sign alerting others to the danger), but we’ll agree not to do harm to each other. The truce can commence now that we’ve applied “Brush Be Gone” to every three-leafed organism in our yard. And if this truce thing doesn’t work out? Well, then I’ll just leave all the weeding to my husband.

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