Saturday, August 12, 2017

Gruesome Playground Injuries: 2017 Edition

The view facing east

Last summer, the overgrown plants in my corner bed resulted in some harsh words from the management company who patrols our subdivision for the homeowners' association.  I spent several days in the heat of late July working to cut back plants and improve the view from the stop sign to the east, since I do value my neighbors' and other drivers' safety.  

So last week, wanting to avoid a citation from the yard police, I decided to check out the view from the stop sign and see what I could do to make for a better line of sight.  One thing that stood out was the low hanging limbs of the Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica var. glabra 'Carolina Sapphire'. I thought perhaps the judicious removal of some small live branches and various dead twigs might help ameliorate the view.  

The view facing west. The branches don't look so low from this side, do they?

Hat on head and Jakoti shears in hand, I clipped and considered, pruned and pondered. Then I made what I think was the fateful decision that would lead only to misery: I stepped under the canopy of the tree to continue pruning from the inside. It was a hot, sunny day and sweat was running down my brow and into my eyes as I worked. At one point, I noticed that my right eye was itching and burning fiercely so I went to splash my face with water, then returned to my pruning.  After another 10 or 15 minutes, both eyes were burning so badly that I had no choice but to abandon my efforts and head inside for a cool shower.  I cleaned up, put in some eye drops and puttered about the house for a while - eyes still itching and burning - and then took a nap, hoping I'd feel better for doing so.

Alas, when I awoke just after 5, I was alarmed to find that my vision was now more than a little blurry and hurt even worse than before. I made a call to the eye clinic: the nurse suggested I take Benadryl and use artificial tears, then told me the clinic opened at 7:30 am if I weren't better in the morning.  After a restless and miserable night, I got up to find that my vision was so blurred I couldn't make out my features in a mirror. I even wiped the mirror to see if it had been steamed up from the shower ... but no.

So off we went to the eye clinic and after a mercifully brief wait, I was ushered into an exam room and provided with sweet relief in the form of numbing drops. The doctor who examined my eyes ordered a 4 week course of steroid drops in both eyes, 4x a day for 2 weeks and then 2x a day for 2 weeks.  

I'm happy to say that my vision improved dramatically within a couple of days and a week later, I have no residual effects. Once I was able to read again, I did some Googling and discovered that the Arizona cypress is in the same botanical family, Cupressaceae, as the dreaded cedar plants of central Texas, Juniper ashei. I believe this explains why my reaction was unusually severe: every year, when the cedar pollen blows in from Austin, I suffer an attack of cedar fever that usually ends with severe bronchitis and a course of oral steroids.  For those unfamiliar with cedar fever, this article from a March 1986 issue of TEXAS MONTHLY might be of interest.

What's really annoying is that, after all that angst, the view from the stop sign is still not what it should be. The real culprit is probably the Pride of Barbados tree, which The Head Gardener says someone planted in a most unfelicitous location. But with that tree in full and glorious bloom, and butterflies visiting it on a regular basis, I refuse to prune it! Surely even the yard police will see my point ...