The Oak

When we moved across town, our humble new home came with about an acre of actual wilderness behind it.

During escrow, we had visions of rope swings and tree forts and zip lines among the giant oak trees; gardening or landscape among the dappled green below. Perhaps a reading bench.

After escrow it occurred to us that none of these were going to happen.

Possibly ever.

Poison Oak runs rampant from trunk to trunk and periodically UP a trunk. It lunges across the trails and flourishes between boulders and sparkles an inviting red and green in the sunshine.

No human is going into that space and coming back out in one piece.

We stood there, at the edge of Alice’s Wonderland, and watched cheshire grinning bunnies frolic and coquettish deer stroll along their side of the looking glass.

“Step right over,” chirruped the creek frogs, “come sit in the grass and chat.”

You can hear the frogs laughing, far into the night.

Poison Oak oils are evil.

They travel.

And we are not deceived.

If you wear gloves and pull the weed and then use your gloves to push a wheelbarrow, the wheelbarrow handles will become harbingers of doom.

(Gardening is out.)

If you sweat through your shirt and the plant swipes it, the oils will migrate through the wet shirt and spread cheerfully across your back.

(No jogging through that wilderness, either.)

If your dog runs amok and then comes to you for a big cuddly hug, you are about to squeeze a poison puppy.

(So don’t bring your dog over to chase squirrels.)

If you use the dormant plant as sticks to roast camp marshmallows, guess what? You are about to get ‘the oak’ in a whole new way. Don’t accidentally put it in your campfire, either, unless you want to inhale the oils drifting in the smoke and right down into your lungs.

(For crying out loud. No camping. Or Christmas Yule Log incidents.)

If you pick your nose after touching the bottom of a shoe that stepped on a poison oak leaf that has been dead for ten years, you’re going to have to explain “what happened” maybe a hundred times.


Then you’ll stay in your natural habitat: the kitchen, making salads out of intelligent greens.

Hubby has sprayed the area with three rounds of “Death Spray” and says it’s working a little. He maintains that if you spray enough years in a row, it will go away all by itself, no touching required.

When my oldest son worked with AmeriCorps, his team did a two month stint on Catalina Island.

Aside from dodging buffalo stampedes and freezing at night and eating from cans, they spent weeks removing acres of wild fennel and replacing it with native plants.

As a respite, the grateful island locals invited the team to snorkel, scuba dive, and generally enjoy their little bit of tourist paradise.

One of the team members who shall remain anonymous got a raging case of ‘the oak’. He was miserable. But not too miserable to miss a snorkeling opportunity.

What he did was fill a full body wetsuit with ‘the oak’ and then return it without saying a word.

Somewhere, on a cruise ship far away, there’s a tourist wondering how on earth he got a case of ‘the oak’ in the middle of the ocean.

And here at home, we admire our trees from the living room window as Hubby annihilates weeds, wandering through the scrub in a Hazmat suit.

Comment (2)

  • pamela schlottman| April 20, 2015

    Wow I did not know poison Oak was so hard to get rid of. Is the Oak dead in the winter? Sometimes the things we imagine never come true. Hope your hubby can really kill the weed after a few years.

  • Barb Abel| April 17, 2015

    I really enjoyed reading this! 🙂

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