Poison Ivy on the Trail

Yesterday I spent about four hours outside, walking through meadows and woods. How I love September—“September the Golden” is how I think of this month, with the goldenrod in full bloom, early-turning foliage all yellow amongst the green and the maples not yet taking over with their eye-catching red. The new school year begins and people get a gleam in their eye: the engine of intention switches from idle to drive; that first brisk breeze of autumn comes in at the window and whispers, “Now.” I should say, however, that on this particular day that breeze was still afar off and the air was d—-d hot and still and, frankly, if it hadn’t been for my duties I would have been at home and resting comfortably inside. Nature rewarded me for seeing to my duties, however, with her wonderful and mysterious nourishment, as is her way…but I digress.

Thanks to Jim Yaki, whom I have never met but whose
blog contains some good photos of poison ivy and
not-poison-ivy in various environments.

One of the early-turning plants, is, most thankfully, poison ivy. Avoidance of poison ivy is a persuasive reason to stay on-path in a woodland park; in this park, the path through the meadows was mowed or maintained to about 2 m wide, so safe for dog and man. Poison ivy loves to lurk in meadows, shaded and disguised by grasses and shrubs and, increasingly, by dog-strangling vine, which (in a painful case of out of the frying pan, into the fire) may be out-competing even this. Anyway, in September, poison ivy becomes much easier to spot, the leaves first becoming mottled with yellow and even the widest leaves down-drooping from the stem or bending from each side of the central vein in that characteristic way; then, in a little while, turning red as a rash.

With the purpose of instruction, my trail mentor led our little group off-path, along a one-leg-wide defile; I spotted the ivy first, and then my mentor showed me a neat little trick: instead of trying to avoid the plant that had stretched across the path, she stepped right on it. She went on doing this until we were out of danger. This solves the problem of where to put your foot if stepping over an ivy plant, since, in a case like this, until you’ve emerged from the ivy patch stepping over or past one plant means putting your foot in another; or it makes you so unbalanced you’re at risk of swaying or tumbling into another plant inadvertently. I’m happy to report that my bare ankles got home unscathed (though I really should rinse off the soles of my shoes).

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