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Footprints in the Pollen

It's pollen season in South Carolina!

Although we don't get much snow in the Upstate of South Carolina, we make up for that deficiency in pollen.

Just when springtime arrives and people begin to plant their gardens, spruce up their ornamentals, and get their mowers out in anticipation of mowing season, Mother Nature also gets active. Azaleas break into bloom, redbuds and dogwoods brighten the landscape, deciduous trees shoot forth their bright green leaves, and conifers dust everything with clouds of pollen. Even the normally clear view of the mountains is made fuzzy by the pollen cloud.

Bees love this time of year. Not so among people who strive to keep their deck furniture "sitable," their vehicles shiny and clean, and their respiratory systems clear.

I noticed the first tell-tale signs of the arrival of the season a few weeks ago when I got into my white truck and noticed that seemingly overnight it had been transformed into a pale yellow. I turned on the wipers, and the air was suddenly beclouded with a fine, yellow dust.

Then it rained. The runoff gushed from the downspouts and across the sidewalk, puddling at the intersection of the sidewalk with the driveway Then it dried, leaving in its wake a distinct yellow line of pollen that reminded me of the ring left around the bathtub after I had bathed when I was a little boy playing all day int he woods and cow pastures of my grandfather's farm.

Even our solar lights outside can't receive a full charge because the photocells are coated with pollen, blocking the sun's recharging rays.

This morning, I went to sit on the deck and write, but I decided that first I should wipe down the furniture. Didn't want to soil my dark pants. I dampened a paper towel and swiped it across the seat and arms of the chair, removing a grand harvest of pollen. Then I used another paper towel to dry the seat. It, too, revealed a bountiful harvest. I repeated the dual process and came up with still more pollen. I think the furniture absorbs the pollen as it falls.

My wife then came out and exclaimed, "Look! We're leaving footprints in all this pollen!"

Sure enough, our dark-stained deck was lighter in color, and multiple footprints remained as evidence of our presence.

I'm noticing even as I write (I write my initial drafts in longhand) that my pen seems to move a little sluggishly across the paper whereas it normally glides. The nib is getting clogged with pollen, which continues to fall, settling on my pad without any concern for my efforts. Pollen is an equal opportunity annoyance.

But a more serious problem for many people is the physical reaction of their bodies to all this pollen. Coughing, sneezing, running noses, sinus drainage, scratchy throats, itchy eyes.

I never had a problem with "hay fever" until I married, then it hit me hard, making up for lost time, I suppose. I used to tease my wife, saying that I was allergic to her. It was at its worst in Pennsylvania. (Or maybe I was allergic to my kids, all of whom were born there.)

My doctor there said that I was allergic to everything that grew in spring. He prescribed a steroid shot at the beginning of the season and--PRESTO! No more reactions. So I continued to get the shot annually.

When we moved to Tennessee and pollen season approached, I asked my doctor there for "the shot." (No, not "that" shot; not "the vaccine!") He refused. "That's overkill," he averred, "like killing a fly with a cannon."

"But it worked!" I argued. I was concerned only with results.

He wasn't convinced. "There are plenty of over-the-counter medications that will work just as well," he countered.

I had no other choice. But the products available at the time made me drowsy. I was afraid that one day I'd find my students waking me up rather than the other way around. Thankfully, Big Pharma soon developed non-drowsy meds for such allergies as mine.

Then suddenly my allergic reactions ceased. They occasionally return, especially when I'm mowing, but even those are relatively mild and temporary. Maybe it's because the kids were by then all married and out of the house. Or maybe my body has finally, after 45 years of marriage, acclimated itself to my wife. Or something. Anyway, I think I'll keep her.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to wash my truck, dust the deck furniture, sweep the sidewalk (maybe even pressure wash it sometime), and blow my nose. I definitely can't change Nature. All I can do is accept it and adapt as best I can. I'd rather do that than shovel snow!

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