By Gwen Rockwood, Northwest Arkansas newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Sometimes we self-proclaimed “indoorsy” people get seduced by the sunshine of a perfect spring day. Last Sunday was one of those days, and my mom and I felt a magnetic pull to the gardening store which was bursting with new hanging baskets and flats of flowers.
After lunch, we shopped and then loaded up the back of my SUV with our favorites. Even the plants seemed thrilled to be going to their new home on such a beautiful day. We have happy hydrangeas, joyful geraniums, perky petunias, celebratory calibrachoa and much more.
As we began putting flowers into the pots we’d saved from last summer, Tom opened the backdoor and let the dogs barrel outside to join us. They chased balls and staged play fights with each other, interrupted only by long drinks from the water bowl and rolling on the grass with their furry paws stretched up toward the sun.
It’s almost impossible to be anything but content on a day like that – a comfortable 70-something degree afternoon with no humidity and a slight breeze now and then. Sunshine lit up a bright blue sky dotted with the kind of white puffy clouds you only find in illustrated children’s books.
The hours drifted by as silently as the puffy clouds. I felt energized by all the blooms bursting with new life as we patted fresh potting soil into pots. After one of the gloomiest, locked-down winters in history, it felt like our backyard was coming alive again.
There were a few different points during the day when the little voice in my head ushered a warning.
Internal voice: See all that yellow pollen collecting on the pool cover? See all those fuzzy little caterpillar-like strings falling from the trees and congregating into springtime tumbleweeds? That’s going to be a problem for you.
Me: Yeah, yeah, I see it. But I took my allergy pill this morning, and I even did the two nasal sprays the doctor told me to do. And I’ll shower when I’m done and wash off all the pollen. Don’t you see how beautiful it is outside today?
Internal voice: I see it… but I also know how miserable you are during an allergy attack. You sure you want to do this?
Me: Don’t be such a buzzkill. We’ll be fine. Pass me those petunias.
Internal voice: (Slowly shakes her head, rolls her eyes, and walks back inside the pollen-free recesses of my brain.)
So, after dismissing the part of me that knows better, I went right on playing in the dirt, digging holes, and plopping root balls of new flowers into them. I binged on spring with no regard for what might be coming next.
Around seven that evening, I started to feel it – a not-so-friendly tickle in the back of my throat. There was a tightness there that came with an ominous message: “You will pay for what you’ve done.”
I put away the gardening tools and went inside hoping a hot shower might head it off at the pass. Alas, shampoo was no match for what was already barreling toward me. An hour or two later, the allergy attack had triggered what shall henceforth be known as “The Great Mucus Storm of 2021.”
It’s hard to be miserable with no one to blame but yourself. I’d had too much of a good thing.
By the next morning, I had what we sneezy types might call an allergy attack hangover. Judging by the way I felt and the dark circles under my eyes, you would’ve thought I’d snorted several lines of that dusty yellow pollen directly into my nose. I stayed inside the next day and sat dutifully at my desk, hopeful that giving my overactive immune system a break would calm things down.
But the Great Mucus Storm had already set up shop in my sinuses. It was going to be a “two tissue boxes” kind of day. By Day 2, I knew I was outmatched and retreated to the nearest walk-in clinic to beg for an injection known as the “sinus cocktail,” which has helped me through episodes like this before.
This morning, I’m on the mend. The injection is beginning to dry things out and give my nose, throat and ears a much-needed break. I’ve learned my lesson and have pledged not to overdo it like that again until the pollen has mostly passed.
But as I look out the kitchen windows and see all those flowers and ferns, it’s easier to accept the punishment I’ve received for my forbidden fling with spring. Don’t tell my inner voice I said this, but I think it was worth it.
Bloom and grow, my friends. Bloom and grow.