When I was little, growing up in North Carolina, there were trees everywhere. Right off my backyard, there was a miniature forest, closed in by other backyards in my neighborhoods. My elementary and middle schools were surrounded by los arboles grandes, and recess often involved running around in there.
But early into my childhood, I was tested for allergies and “trees” were a culprit. Because I was seven, they never actually told me WHAT trees I was allergic to; they just said to stay away from them. Even still. That’s not what stopped me from loving the outdoors.
I spent the next two decades forgetting that I’d like getting covered in dirt and feeling a breeze on my adventure-sweaty face. Between the oppressive heat of Texas summers and the noticeable lack of trees, there was nothing to reignite that passion. I became an indoor kid.
This apparently made my vague tree allergy ratchet all the way up. I tried to walk through a scenic trail near my husband’s parents’ house, and I had to turn back after 15 minutes because my legs were on fire. By the time we made it back to the house, my shins were swollen with grotesque hives that ran unbroken from ankle to knee. A few years earlier, the same thing had happened when I was visiting my dad back in North Carolina and we went for a family walk through his neighborhood.
This is obviously unfortunate now that I live in New England, where them real nice trees hang out. I love driving past a veritable smorgasbord of crispy, warm hues and smelling fall on the air. We’ve been here for over three years, and traveling north or south on the highway STILL has me marveling at the gorgeous landscape. But, more than anything, living here has made me remember:
On a recent trip to Portland, Maine, my husband and I went to a park in Cape Elizabeth that we’d never visited before. We were drawn by the desire to see a lighthouse, but we were blown the fuck away by a pair of cliff walks that took you down to the water’s edge by having you crawl over giant rock formations. I felt a calm I hadn’t felt in years. The sea breeze on my face, paired with the view and the triumphant feeling of climbing a rock face to dangle my feet over the water, was almost a religious experience. I sloughed off the remnants of that southern delusion and swore I’d start going outside more.
Unfortunately for me, the outdoors is a fickle bitch.
Spurred by my newfound desire to become someone who hikes, my husband and I took our puppy to a small nature reserve near our apartment. All geared up in new hiking boots and what I dubbed “adventure leggings,” I set off on the trail ready to fall further in love with nature.
As if that weren’t bad enough, I woke up in the middle of the night to a tick trying to burrow into my underarm flesh. (While I’d woken up the second it bit me, and my husband dispatched of it quickly, I’m still convinced that I’m about to die.)
I couldn’t help but mourn the disastrous trip outside. What are you trying to tell me, Mama Nature?! Is this some kind of natural selection play? Are you trying to say that I’m only allowed to experience SOME of you but not all of you? I’m gonna be honest, girl: that seems a little bit racist. Especially considering my white husband came out of our brief excursion with NOT. ONE. MOSQUITO. BITE. The fuck?!
I don’t want to admit defeat just yet. I have some weapons to put up my sleeve for the next time I challenge Mother Nature: bug spray, allergy medication, a hat. But I’m also not ready to metaphorically and literally get back out there; my legs and arms are still recovering from the onslaught of bloodsucking bastards.
So I guess for one more fall, I’m stuck looking at people’s #foliage Instagrams and imagining my adventurous future.
(Sigh. Fall, you fucking tease. One day . . . You will be mine.)