Friday, October 6, 2017

Planting Pretty Poison

Two weeks ago today, my oldest son was on his way to work, then a deer jumped in front of his car.

Oldest is fine. The car is not, nor was the deer. (Cops put the large doe down after arguing for an hour over who had to do it.)

But it was one of those horrible reminders of the fragility of our little universe. And life isn't designed to give us time to hold our loved ones close until we stop shaking.

No, once the police were done, I had to drive Oldest to work, and pick him up, and sort through insurance decisions with my husband. In a few days, I dropped Oldest off at the airport for a work reward trip. I'm not usually nervous putting people on planes, but we had already used up a lot of luck, karma, blessings, so I was very relieved to pick him up a couple days later.

Scottish, not Serbian, and best played loud

Still unable to curl up and cry, I channelled fear into aggression. Instead of poetry CDs of Dickinson and Whitman, I crank up nihilistic Franz Ferdinand, to volumes my young adult children turn down.

Oldest has understandably been  avoiding the wandering country road where he hit the deer. I have sought it out, driving it whenever possible to break any curses there may be.

And I bought and planted bags and bags of daffodil bulbs.

Deer-proofing for flowers
You see, our usual contact with deer is in the garden. Deer eat everything we want to grow: vegetables, fruit trees, roses, pansies, and tulips. They are pretty cheeky too, walking between the cars and our house to eat the roses, picking pansies out of pots on the porch.  Each spring, I enjoy my tulips while they last,  knowing that they will inevitably disappear in the night.

 Serious gardeners in our neighborhood build serious fences, and sometimes find deer trapped inside, tangled within, or impaled upon them. Landscaping becomes an act of war.

Deer-proofing barbed-wire for vegetables--10 feet high
And plants are weapons. I've long since given up on pansies. New plantings are all made with deer in mind. Plants for my pots must be fuzzy or aromatic--traits deer don't find terribly appetizing. Or they can be poisonous, like the daffodils I've been planting.

I hurt myself planting daffodils. I dug in the garden and pulled out weeds as if I were a healthy person accustomed to physical work. I exorcised some fear, but created a lot of pain. I had to crash for most of the last week.

This Tuesday I sat in the car and cried, unable to face the effort of walking into the gym to swim. But I was able to walk the aquarium on Wednesday and limped into the pool on Thursday.  I'll hike, gingerly, today. I'm on the mend.

Also, despite my rage, I'm really not planning a cervidae slaughter in my spring flower garden. Deer somehow sense that daffodils are poison, so they leave them alone. Deer are smarter than I am that way.

Because I've been poisoning myself for about a month now--with health food.

As I cleaned out my cupboards so Youngest could sand and stain them, I found several boxes of herb tea which I started to consume in large amounts. I would microwave mason jars full, then refrigerate them, so I had something cold, but not sweet to drink.

I enjoyed gallons of smooth iced tea before unbearable itching reminded me I am allergic to chamomile.
I found out about the allergy decades ago when I planted the dainty herb in my garden. Young and ambitious, I had romantic ideas of a kitchen filled with herbs hung upside-down to dry. When I handled the dry herb, my eyes watered and I thought I would sneeze myself to death.

I haven't grown it intentionally since, but chamomile has become an odd invasive weed, growing only two inches high up and down our driveway. It hasn't hurt me in that form, but some of it's cousins have. I'm allergic to the whole sunflower family. I can no longer grow the tall garden sunflowers that rain pollen on unsuspecting passers-by. A gift of sunflower-based soap from Kansas gave me reactions through a plastic wrapper. The wild cousins that beautify roadsides here in the fall are okay-- as long as I don't get too close.

I didn't think I was allergic to drinking chamomile. But it is the most likely cause of an unbearable itching that has covered my entire body and made sleep impossible. Even as the worst has eased, I feel the sensation of trying to pass thistles through my pores.

 I've stayed away from all herbal tea for over a week now, and urges to pull my skin off have calmed. I'm down to my standard constant itchiness instead. I talked to my rheumatologist about the ongoing feeling of having bugs crawling on me. He likes the term "formication" with its tidy Latin ant root, but doesn't offer solutions because it's not his specialty.

 I have an appointment with my family doctor on Tuesday. Maybe it will give us something more interesting to talk about than my cholesterol for a change.

Maybe she will even have some suggestions. Right now all small comforts are appreciated.


  1. One thing about the daffodils is how much they grow. We got 5 from church 15 years ago. We planted them in rocks, I kid you not rocks. We have to thin them out every year. Those things are unreal.

  2. I'm looking forward to that part. We have half an acre, and I'm not gardener, so I appreciate invasive, low maintenance plants.