Sunday night, I was sitting in the ER with my oldest son, who had a case of poison ivy gone systemic. I was half-listening, grading papers, as he and the doctor discussed all the places he could have contracted it.
"I think it was last weekend. Or I climbed a tree the other night playing manhunt at my friend's. But it might have been on a hike, or chasing down a soccer ball at my brother's game, or getting out of the rough on the golf course, or walking home from lacrosse practice through the fields..."
She pointed out a small patch on my elbow--was mine from Rails to Trails, where I rode a horse this week, or at the barn, when we did a deep clean and laid down all new rubber and sand footing in the indoor arena? Dumping compost from the chicken coop? I shrugged.
"There's poison ivy everywhere around here."
I explained that most evenings from April - October, our family tries to walk at sunset, with kids and bikes and relatives and sticks and frisbees and dogs, sometimes people had to retrieve balls from the high grass by the pond or under the pines, or love on dogs who might have gone off the beaten path. I think Hayden was relieved I was talking about Evening Walk instead of our colorful history with goats as poison ivy control.
"Wow," the doctor laughed, "your family spends a lot of time outside!"
And all I could think was we do, and, with a tiny panic...
I'm a huge believer in spending as much time outdoors as possible, and Indian Summer is the swan song of eating dinner outside, and lingering with a glass of wine, walking with friends and family and my sweet dog, watching the bats dive for gnats and the chickens cluck up the stairs to their coop. Sure, in a few months, we will be pond skating and snowboarding and crashing the hockey boards, but until then, we'll drink up this version of nature in all its bittersweet, ever-earlier orange sunset glory.
Winter is coming, folks. Until then, get outside! Take a hike, ride a bike or a pony, kick a ball, eat dinner al fresco or as my kids keep begging me, hit the beach one more time.