Friday, July 18, 2008

Country living is not for wimps

I'm seriously considering moving back to the city where my anxieties will be confined to the possibility of a drive-by shooting or the quality of the air I breathe. When I'm city living, I forget about the underbelly of dealing with nature -- the storms, the incessant creepy-crawly-stingy things that like to live with us.

I'll report in reverse order.

Yesterday Michael decided to do a quick mow on the half-acre or so of grass that's been growing like gangbusters lately, before we headed down to the lake for an afternoon of boating.

Just as he's finishing the upper side yard, I see him race in the back door and into the kitchen to peel off his sock because something had bitten or stung him. Ten minutes later he's covered in hives and --- with brother Dan's urging (our family paramedic) --- we're racing to the local hospital in Watkins Glen.

It got serious enough to call 911 halfway down the hill when Michael starting complaining about serious chest pain. The ambulance grabbed him at the end of the lake, started an IV of benadryl, with steroids to follow. Apparently he was stung three times by a white wasp -- a big hatch of the nasty things are around this year and they must have a nest in the ground where he was mowing.

It's the exact same spot --- the base of the big sycamore tree --- that the yellowjackets nailed me last year. As we pulled out of the driveway, I heard Michael yell up there, "It's war now, buddies."

Poisons and fuel accelerants are being gathered for the midnight retaliation, now that he's home and recovering. The hospital photo shows him taking his Benadryl-induced nap.

The wasp incident followed a quick moving strong storm cell the day before that hit a narrow path of Valois and Hector on the east side of Seneca Lake. We watched it on the radar as the red part of the storm tagged us dead on, like a bullseye on a target. It's happened a few times this summer but this was the most dramatic.

Trees came down, the wind howled across the lake, lightening strikes every few seconds followed by loud rolling thunder. I've been in a lot of storms, some out on our boat in the ocean. This rivaled that kind of anxiety.

We looked out the window and up, up, up at the huge Sycamore tree that we've been talking about trimming for the past few years --- a tree that's been here for probably a hundred years. And the big pine trees and the several huge locust trees that are much higher than the house.

Now I understand why all the neighbors have clear cut around their property. Aha!

The big willow tree came down across the road just few houses down the hill from us, a tree that was also probably over a hundred years old. And a friend's willow tree that measured more than four and a half feet in diameter came down across his truck and his new lake cabin --- with them in it! Everyone's okay but boy, will they have stories to tell for the rest of their lives.

We've been aware of nature up close and personal from all our years of sailing. But then we would get off the boat and retreat to Sacramento, the great urban, comfortable escape, get complacent again.

But between Mexico and Valois, I'm feeling a bit like the early settlers. There's so much beauty in the life and the land we've chosen. But it sure comes with a creepy, crawly, stingy, windy reminder that there is probably no such thing as paradise.

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