Deirdre Kelly

My Summer Vacation

Just back from a week of family camp in the Canadian woods with the kids only to discover that I have poison ivy.  As a kid myself, I used to run barefoot through the forests with never a care. I was oblivious to nature as a potentially dangerous place. Perhaps it was this underlying naivete that made me such an eager student of the Romantics, with Keats as my hero.  Yes, he did once write of feeling out of sorts after a day communing with nature, “as if of hemlock I had drunk….”  I have been thinking of that line from Ode to a Nightingale while trying not to scratch my burning itch.  My son has it worse than I — from his thigh to his underarm and everywhere in between, poor boy.  But I’m not suppposed to tell anyone. Calamine lotion is us!  Sitting again at my desk in the city, ulcerating and sore, I reflect on the past week as an idyll, nonetheless. I swam in Lake Couchiching, I learned how to weather forecast by reading the clouds, and one morning, without first having had my cup of coffee, I went bird-watching with Brad, who sat at the table next to mine in the communal dining room  made of logs. Earlier in the week, Brad with his bincoculars showed me something rare — a green heron. Its legs shone emerald against the lemonade leaves of the willow tree in which it lay hidden, a jewel in the rough.  It  crouched low,  its head a shock of olive feathers. It looked like a kiwi. I couldn’t get close. I was in a canoe with my new freind Curtis. But I marveled at its strangeness. And at how I had never seen such a creature before, despite living all my life side-by-side with nature. This bird opened my eyes, so to speak, becoming my own nightingale of enlightened inspiration. Worth getting poison ivy for.

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