There’s a reason cliché sayings have survived many years and have been handed down through generations. I just wish, sometimes, that I didn’t learn cliché lessons the hard way.
As a photographer, sometimes, I’m overtaken by the moment, wanting to capture the perfect picture, one that resonates what I saw and how I felt. On more than one occasion, I’ve gotten wrapped up in a blanket of enthusiasm, forgetting the age-old advice of, “look before you leap.”
Several years ago, I found the most beautiful patch of calla lilies I’ve ever seen. It was unbelievable that they were unspoiled and untouched, because they were located right off a main dirt road at a state park. Lighting conditions were perfect and there was no one around to cause any diversions. I went to work, carefully, setting up my tripod as not to tarnish or damage a single flower, and I photographed these beauties at every position and angle possible. After the light faded, I headed back to my hotel room and did a quick upload of my photos. Hastily glancing over a few, they looked just as I imagined; they were gorgeous.
Several days later, I began to itch. It was a God-awful, prickly, hot, kind of itching! I couldn’t imagine what it was. I knew it wasn’t poison oak, because I never got poison oak. In spite of the hundreds of times I waded in and out of poison oak along trails, ducking in and out for photo opportunities, I had never, once, gotten poison oak. My dad is completely immune to it, and I was grateful that I was graced with such good fortune. But as the days headed towards a week, I had noticed a very ugly, red, oozing rash on the side of my head, behind my ear, down past my neck, ending at my chest. It was AWFUL. I tried everything from home remedies, to over the counter medications. Finally, when I could no longer stand it, I went to the doctor, whom, of course, told me what I hadn’t wanted to hear; I had poison oak! How in the HELL did I get poison oak on such an obscure strip of my body AND only on one side?
A few weeks came and went before the poison oak was finally gone, my skin (and mood), improving. I never would have imagined poison oak completely ruining a good night’s sleep and being an obsession from morning until night, as I constantly fought off the urge to scratch! I wish that I could tell you that I was smart enough to figure out, on my own, just how I’d gotten the poison oak. But things don’t work that way now do they? However, the evidence, and story, of just how I’d gotten the poison oak unveiled right before my eyes, literally, in black and white! I was prcessing my calla lily photos and there it was, poison oak, intermixed with beautiful flowers! The calla lily patch was completely loaded with poison oak! In between clusters of flowers were delicate green “leaves of three". And just how was it that I had gotten the rash down a single strip of my body? MY TRIPOD! The tripod legs were in and out of the patch of lilies. And in my mind, I pictured just how the rash had moved from the tripod to my body; my leisurely walk from the lily patch to the car, carrying my tripod, as I usually did, resting on my right shoulder, my neck and down across my chest! In my enthusiasm and excitement of having great pictures, I neglected to fully look around and take notice, before I leaped, or in my case, squatted over a patch of calla lilies! No wonder the flower patch was undisturbed!
And while we’re on the subject of catch phrases and clichés, here’s another: “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there!” Apparently, twigs from the poison ivy plant also carry the oils that that cause the ugly, painful rash. So while the leaves can, and do, change color and may even fall, or die off, should you come into contact with the twigs of this plant, you just may find yourself the owner of a rash! Yes, that’s right. Just slap ME STUPID!
During my last trip to Yosemite, as I was dreaming of peaceful, snow shots, I apparently came into contact with said twigs, as I scrunched down, crawling on all fours, trying to curl my body around a group of rocks. Yeah, that too was a winning shot! This time my itching began only a few hours after exposure and there was NO evidence of any poison oak (believe me, I frantically scrolled through 2 full memory cards of pictures and saw not a DAMNED THING!). It wasn’t until we got back to our hotel and I semi-mooned my husband, showing him “X” marked the spot that we realized, once again, that I had come down with poison oak. It was Bill who looked on the Internet and found out that the area we visited was famous for poison oak, especially in the winter, when the leaves were gone, but the twigs were still alive and infecting hapless victim, sticking up through the snow! GO FIGURE!
So, "never say never" and "live and learn."