The work on the house at Howlets is nearing completion. All of the systems are in place and working properly and the rooms are taking on their final looks. Fresh paint is making its way onto surfaces. A first fire burned merrily in the living room fireplace last night with the matching pair of dusty blue linen Edwardian sofas flanking the hearth. The paintings will be hung soon and books placed in the newly built bookcases, rounding out the living spaces. My attention now has turned to the outside.

The exterior spaces at Howlets are badly in need of a trim. Fall is the perfect time to accomplish this task, as the bare outlines of the trees emerge. The vegetation had been allowed to grow up over the last decade or so and has begun to take over. A “take back” attack was needed. There are many large locust trees on the property that now severely hamper the view of the ocean. Volunteer locusts have sprung up in alarming numbers throughout the yard and in the neglected garden spaces. Many of these have matured to saplings which further threaten the views. A chainsaw and a vision were needed. After consulting with owners David and Heather about what should stay and what should go, I brought over my power tool and work gloves and got to work. There is an immediate-need gratification that gets fulfilled when a view-blocking tree comes down. My excitement built as more and more of the view began to emerge. The movies Edward Scissorhands and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sprang to mind as my chainsaw wielded its magic.

In an area of the yard that could potentially reveal a view of the lower quarry from the front porch, I had noticed a bit of poison ivy that had climbed into the trees and made a mental note to avoid it. That mental post-it somehow came loose in the excitement of the work as I pulled, cut and carried arm loads of cut woody material to the waste pile. The next morning I was vaguely aware of a slight itch on my arms, but did not give it much thought. As the itching turned to a burn and then blistering, I remembered the poison ivy and the 5-watt light bulb went off in my head. Uh oh.

As the week progressed the itching and burning began to creep from my arms to spots on my eyelid, cheek, throat, chest, armpit, hip and waist.  How could these areas be affected as I was sure that I was fully clothed that day? A check with Heather’s memory of my haberdashery that day confirmed, I was not nude swinging a chainsaw while felling trees. I am personally opposed to mixing nudity and mechanically whirring sharp objects.

Photos in blog posts help tell the story but in this case I will spare readers the horrors. New spots continue to rear their ugly blistered heads even more than a week after the confrontation. What nether regions will erupt next?  I have dreams of relieving the intense itch by dragging a fork over the affected areas. The blistering and oozing is visually arresting and makes me feel like a leper. In times past, lepers were required to carry clappers to warn others of their approach. There are a set of wood antique leper clappers available on eBay that are quite handsome. I am considering reviving that practice.

Make way for the infected

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