Saturday, May 7, 2011

mother nature is trying to kill me

This has become obvious in the last 36 hours.

Yesterday I'm surveying for burrows with my coworkers.

It's HOT.

We're strolling across grassy knolls, very scenic, beautiful day.

The thistles are TALL and FIERCE.

They don't CARE that I'm wearing too-thick-to-be-comfortable-in-this-heat-with-all-this-off-trail-hiking jeans because I don't want to get shredded by thistle or bit by rattlesnakes. They laugh in the face of denim.

I take off my safety vest because a) I'm no where near a road and b) I've overheated on this project before, so I know that when I'm too hot, I have to lose the vest-o-plastic. Or bake my brain.

As far as the eye can see,  there's nothing but hills, windmills, and grass.


I am sneezing the full-body-get-this-enemy-out convulsive sneezes of strong allergies. I hike the hills wearing my bandanna train-robber-style to cut down on the pollen-devils swirling up my nose. My whole face is running.

We reach a little canyon carved by a wandering creek, and in the snowing cottonwoods we hear a bird, see some yellow, and a dark eye stripe. Bullock's oriole, we decide. Delightful.

We cross the creek stepping on rocks and reeds; a misstep renders my left boot wet, and I feel a brief, freakish pain in my foot, like a bite, so I linger a tiny bit.

Later I will remember this as the probable cause of "the eye."

Eventually, we take a lunch break and I find I cannot eat my lunch.

I pick at the "morning bun" I'd started earlier, ignore my sandwich, and announce "I'm too swollen to eat." I'm scratching at my eyes, my arms, my legs. My co-workers decide that I am too much of a mess (too hot, rashes springing up here and there, can't stop sneezing, eyes look bad) to finish.

My body is near panic.

I feel my way to my car to take some medicine.

My co-workers finish the last hour of surveys in 90 degree heat while I lower my body temperature in the air conditioned trailer and absorb the medicine. My body calms down. My coworkers, poor things, return flushed, sweaty, quiet, and open-mouthed; stupefied by the heat.

An hour later, I check into a hotel. The woman behind the counter is rather curt.

In about 3 minutes, I will understand why.

At last I get my blessed room, turn on the air conditioning, strip, shower off all the pollen, quarantine my pollen-coated clothing into a zippered recess of my luggage.

In the interim, I have notice my thighs are covered in bright red dots. As in cartoon bright, cherry red. Dozens and dozens.

Second, I see my face.


I have a vestigal twin sprouting from somewhere near and above my right tear duct. My eye is freakishly swollen.

Well, that explains the hotel employee's lack of delightful demeanor. She was probably frightened.

So I run that evening's errands like a starlet: wearing large, dark (thoroughly rinsed) sunglasses that I NEVER remove.

Later that evening I remember that my face/eyes have swollen up like that on two previous occasions; when out in the field, by a fresh-water stream.

1) The first time, I was helping with a raptor survey.

The guy running it (veteran wildlife biologist and professor) was with me that day, we were by a creek for a few minutes, and suddenly I began sneezing violently, I itched like mad, and welts sprung up on my face. We left immediately. Days later, he told me that while witnessing my reaction, its speed and intensity, he started calculating whether or not he could carry me out.

2) Another time my goal was to show my boyfriend a green heron.

We'd birded a slough near my house, but across the street was the only place I'd ever seen a green heron. So, we crossed the road, and headed down the riparian area toward the end where I'd seen it. But I started sneezing ferociously, and puffing up. Valiantly I tried to continue on, but my boyfriend looked at me and declared "We're leaving." During our drive to the drug store (for Benedryl), I peeked at myself via the visor mirror.

FREAKY puffy eyes. It is amazing the degree to which even a small change at or near your eyes can render you a terrifying freak.

Horrified, this was a date after all, I exclaimed "I look like a monster!"

He patted my leg reassuringly and said, "My monster."*

I make it through the evening, and the next day I do what I have to do, duly medicated, surviving one more bank-robber-field day. I almost re-sprain my ankle twice, even falling at one point. However, I dodge that particular bullet.

At one point I ask a co-worker, as we travel through rattlesnake-infested grasslands, "Have you ever seen a rattlesnake here?" Which means, can I stop paying attention to that a tiny bit and just walk, look for burrows and blow my nose? Just right in this little area?

I am tired.

He thinks. Then says "I've seen them all over. I think they can occur anywhere at this project site. I don't think there's any place you can..." he pauses.

"stop being vigilant." I offer.



I continue to scan for burrows, foot holds, and rattlesnakes.

After we are finished, I accomplish the 3 hour drive home through a combination of anti-histimines, triple lattes (2? 3?), and air conditioning.

Arriving home, I get settled (i.e. water chickens and cats), then pass out on couch in an exhausted nap. What a relief.

I wake up one hour later, go to bathroom, and

What the?!?

It looks like my eyes are bleeding. I have NEVER IN MY LIFE seen my eyes so freakishly, horror-movie-solid red. They were (relatively) normal an hour ago. I am actually scared.

I splash my face, do a mental calculation (yes, allergy medicine has worn out by now), and take more pills.

I wet a white, cotton cloth and bathe the couch I'd just lay my head on, which is positioned by an open window.

The cloth is now greenish yellow.

I'd just slept on a blanket of pollen.

More drugs.

More washing.

My entire plan for this weekend is to take pills, nap, and damp-mop my universe.

Clearly, mother nature is trying to kill me.

And I know she's over qualified, so I'd better focus.

Because apparently, there is no point at which I can stop being vigilant.



*Incidentally, I married him.

P.S. This may be supplemented with photographs later, but first I must nap. xobb


  1. Jesus! Sounds like some rough field days (understatement). Assuming you have health insurance, I would cruise in and get some meds. By the way, really good post, sorry it was inspired by such misery!

  2. =) Glad you liked it. I was feeling guilty 'cause there are (so far) NO pictures, but too exhausted/medicated to have energy to process and post. I'd decided if it got any worse, I'd head in the general direction of a doctor. =) It was an adventure!

  3. Thank you for this post. I'd just been envying all you Northern Hemisphere bloggers merrily revelling in the flowers and frolics of Spring. You've succeeded in putting things in perspective. I hope your eyes have resumed normal colouration and you're feeling fit again. (I think the lack of photos was probably a blessing!)


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