Walhydra was at loose ends on Memorial Day, because Hubby Jim was (as usual) using a day off to...um...work as much as usual.
To his credit, she admits, JimJim has been pushing himself intensely for several years now in order to get the research grants and publish the research papers which will allow him—they both hope—to rise above the Slough of Despond, otherwise known as "teaching freshman statistics to root vegetables."
But, still...another long weekend of being a faculty "widow." Ah, well....
So, early that Monday afternoon, Walhydra decided that she would head out to her favorite place for grounding with nature, the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve on Fort George Island.
She discovered this marvelous place about a decade ago, one summer day when she was desparately in need of...well, if you must know... someplace to be skyclad outdoors, away from people and work and the city.
This out-of-the way island of live oaks, magnolias, pines, marsh grass and hiking trails suits fairly well, though it isn't quite as imposing or remote from residents and visitors as her old South Carolina escape, the Congaree Swamp, with its giant lob lolly pines and wide, slow river and ponds.
As a plus, though, Timucuan delights Walhydra's bright naturalist nephew with its giant banana spider webs, hung from pine tree to pine tree, and its huge burrowing gopher turtles.
Actually, on this particular holiday, Walhydra did not intend to go skyclad. In fact, she wore long sleeves and cargo pants, so that she could carry her toy Canon and make a stab at doing nature photography.
Her first objective was a "hidden" pond she has found, away from the paths and through a pine woods full of—you guessed it—banana spider webs. She knew that blue herons and kingfishers and egrets often gathered there, and she hoped to try out her camera on them.
Unfortunately, by the end of May, the overgrowth around the pond was so thick that she couldn't get down to its banks before the birds had all heard her and flown away.
She did manage a few shots of those water plants who could not flee her clumsiness. A little disappointing, but at least a start.
Next Walhydra wandered among the live oaks, her favorite friends. Long before Crow and Wolf became totems for her, trees spoke powerfully to Walhydra. The dance of their branches as she walks by stirs a sympathetic rhythm within her, and embracing them is like embracing the veins of the earth.
Of course, in the mundane world of two-dimensional photography, Walhydra is still such a tyro that she doesn't yet know how to capture the visual depth and rhythms she sees. Something to aspire to, though this image gives merely a hint.
Walhydra's best luck came when she decided to sit down in the scattered oak and magnolia leaves and to focus her Canon on the details. Complex patterns in nature have always been the most fascinating to her. Again, it's partly the intricacy of visual rhythms. She loves to "read the score" as her eye moves across such patterns, feeling the music inside.
For this reason, when Walhydra sat down cross-legged on the warm forest floor, her eye was immediately drawn to the overlapping patterns of leaves and shadows on the ground.
This is what Walhydra loves and wants to share, what she longs to be able to portray more richly. The image above is at least a start...though she doesn't quite feel in it the magic of that moment when she first saw the fern shadow.
In any case, the expedition was a success, in the sense that Walhydra returned to town renewed and ready...well, not really...to return to work after the holiday weekend.
Until Tuesday afternoon. When her ankles began to itch. And her shins. And the backs of her knees. And....
A little eyeballing revealed that Walhydra was covered with dozens of what looked like bug bites.
"Oy! I don't remember feeling anything biting me," she said.
The itching wasn't uncomfortable, so she feigned Buddhist equanimity ("Damned bugs!") and went back to work. That night, calamine lotion made no difference in the itching.
By Wednesday afternoon, the spots were raised and larger and itching more, so Walhydra decided to go to the doctor...just in case....
Here's where the rant comes in.
(The faithful reader, one assumes, was wondering when the rant would come in.)
For almost a decade, Walhydra has been going to an excellent Advanced Practice Registered Nurse in her GP's office, a cheery guy named Matt. Matt is not only open to real conversation about symptoms, differential diagnosis and treatment options, he is very comfortable talking about the medically relevant aspects of a long-term gay marriage.
Unfortunately, last month Matt moved to Florida's Gulf coast. He and his wife, who both grew up on farms, recently adopted five brothers, and they wanted to give them the blessing of country life. Matt had finally found a farm and an APRN practice. Wonderful for him, of course, but it left Walhydra with....
...maybe she should just call him "Dr. X," since he ought to be ashamed to be identified.
From the start, Dr. X seemed bored.
He didn't seem interested in even looking at Walhdyra's spots. When she began sharing details—where she had been, what she had done, what it might be—Dr. X hummed and hawwed. Instead, he started running through his own checklist of symptoms and possible causes, as if she hadn't even told him anything.
This was annoying, but since Walhydra had already decided to find a different clinic now that Matt was gone, she put up with it.
Then Dr. X glanced at Walhydra's chart.
"Oh. How recently have you had an HIV test?" he asked. "Given your life style...."
"I don't need an HIV test. I was negative ten years ago, and neither of us have outside partners."
Unperturbed, Dr. X ploughed ahead. Before long he said life style again.
"Just a moment, Doctor. You keep using that phrase 'life style.' This is not a life style. This is a twenty-six-year long gay marriage."
"Marriage. Is that what it's called? Are you sure that...?"
Walhydra became very cool.
"We've been a married couple since 1985. It's not an issue."
"Well, this sort of thing could have come from some sort of 'exposure' to STDs, maybe a hotel room you 'stayed in' for one night."
The session was over, as far as Walhydra was concerned, except that she did want medical treatment.
Things degenerated quickly. Dr. X's prescribed Prednisone and Hydroxyzine for generic "exposure dermatitis," told Walhdyra to come back in a week, and muttered something about further testing if the "rash" didn't go away.
Walhydra drove off, fuming.
"If I could write scrips, I could have picked out those two drugs myself.
"What! Does he think Kaposi's sarcoma can pop up overnight...a quarter of a century after exposure?
"What an A-hole!"
The meds worked, fortunately, and Walhydra got a lot of mileage out of ranting about Dr. X.
Then, on Friday afternoon, drinking beer in the front yard of her best buddy neighbors, the pest control guy and his wife, she rolled up her pants leg to show them the bites. Now no longer itching, but large and bright red.
"Chiggers!" Mr. Pest Control said immediately.
Walhydra slapped her forehead.
"Oh, course! I didn't think of that. I haven't dealt with chiggers since my childhood in Ohio...way back in another century."
"They love Spanish moss."
"Duh! I was sitting in dead leaves and Spanish moss for almost hour."
"Well, that explains it," Mrs. Pest Control chimed in. "They definitely made a buffet of you."
Walhydra nodded ruefully.
"Yeah, an all-you-can-eat buffet."
And so it is.