The grace of small favors

From the 2008  journal while walking from D.C to Pittsburgh, while learning the gospel of John.


Poison ivy everywhere.  If I manage to avoid it, Chester can’t, and his fur shares it with me.  But today, even I can’t keep prevent stepping into it.  In a five-mile stretch of the canal towpath, nothing has been mowed all season.  Usually the path is well tended, but in this section not even the campground has been mowed.  The grass is two and a half feet high, hiding the picnic bench, hiding the sinister ivy leaves ready to blister my skin.

I grow ornery when a park ranger truck rolls down the trail.  There is absolutely nowhere for me to move out of the way except off to the side in yet another stand of poison ivy.  Grrrrr.  With the windows rolled up in his air-conditioned truck, the driver does not even wave his thanks.   Here I am, sweating it out in the high 80’s with 90% humidity.  I can imagine with dread my entire body itching tomorrow.  While he motors out of sight, I wish that I had stood my ground in the middle of the trail, forced him to stop, voiced my complaint to the park service, lamented what severe reactions to poison ivy are like for those who choose to walk instead of ride.  But all I have done is to move out of the truck’s way and then call Rick to gripe for awhile. What a wimp I am!


Step after step, vexation melts into more sweat until, finally, somewhere near Cumberland, gratitude happens.  Of all places, a water treatment plant bordering the towpath offers freshly mown grass and a shade tree.  This is all it takes for sheer joy to take over.  We veer off to the side, stretch ourselves out on the clean lawn, cool ourselves with drinks of water, bless the summer, close our eyes and forget that such a thing as poison ivy ever existed anywhere on this good earth.