There’s a loveliness to scratching

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The urge to scratch is a powerful one. Not scratching is powerful agony.

As I sit trying to focus on my fingers moving over the keys, I am in a fight not to reach up and claw the side of my face like some flea-bitten hound dog. From my chin to my ear and halfway up my left cheek are red splotches that beg for my fingernails to drag themselves across every inch of skin.

Did I mention flea-bitten dog and fighting not to claw? I did. Sorry, but my focus seems centered on the loveliness of scratching.

Why am I in this fix – an encounter with poison, probably ivy, oak or sumac? I live at the edge of the woods, sandwiched between tall trees with tangled underbrush and the waters of Point A Lake. It is a lovely and I think soul-feeding place to live.

However, all types of growing things share my space and obviously, I’m not clear on which are human-friendly and which aren’t. For more than 20 years, I peacefully coexisted with the poison ones, not giving them much thought.

That ended when I decided to pull weeds from a flowerbed. I am not sure when in the weeding process I encountered the offending vine, but I am suffering the consequences of our meeting.

It started as a spot on my chin that felt tingly, so I rubbed it. While I slept, it tingled more, and I went from rubbing to scratching.

The next morning one spot was a bunch of angry looking blobs of red and the tingle was a full-fledged, almost-more-than-I-could-take itch. I coated the area with the tiny bit of anti-itch cream there was in an old tube and went in search of anything to give me relief.

Online I found a bunch of remedies. Some people suggested using the inside of a banana peel to ease the agony. Others said wash with dishwashing liquid, followed by scrubbing with a mixture of salt and baking soda then splashing with rubbing alcohol.

Do you know what happens when you scrub an itch with salt? Well, it feels like heaven. Do you know what happens when you stop scrubbing with salt and pat it with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball? The words I came up with are not printable in a newspaper. We will settle on, it stings like the place where I heard bad people go when they depart this life.

However, once the extreme burning stops, the itching is better – temporarily.

I didn’t consider some of the other suggested “cures” like using bleach, sandpaper and extremely hot water. The sandpaper was tempting because the idea of scraping it across my face seemed an almost erotic pleasure.

Finally, I settled on my process for eradicating the poison. I wash with Shea butter soap, dab with rubbing alcohol and swab my face, neck, and a couple of places on my arm and chest with anti-itch cream. I ain’t pretty, but I don’t itch as bad for a while.

This morning some of the red spots look smaller and less angry. I am not anxious to appear in public, but it’s getting better – I hope.

So, I believe all experiences are learning opportunities, which has me considering what I learned these past few itchy days.

I learned there are many ideas about how to fix this problem so I’m not the only one who encountered the poison twins Miss Ivy and Mr. Oak and their cousin sumac. I learned I should not touch these unfriendly plants.

Most importantly, I learned to appreciate a state of non-itching because right this minute I want more than anything to give in to that powerful urge and scratch and scratch and scratch and scratch and scratch…