In this year of our lord 2020, I feel as if I’ve been in hand-to-hand combat with Mother Nature. For examples, see below.
My garden just died a swift and ignoble death. A few weeks ago on Instagram, I posted pictures of lush vegetable growth, including a shot of brilliant red beets. Not much later, a curl of black rot appeared on the tomato leaves. In response, I trimmed dying branches, sprinkled fertilizer and lime, secured leaning branches. My efforts were for naught.
The squash, tomatoes and cucumbers blackened, then shriveled on the vine. Red, muscular, ant-like creatures devoured the few rotting tomatoes that were left. Now, only one plant remains — a sturdy bush of jalapeno peppers that are mouth-numbingly hot and therefore inedible.
Currently, I am covered in poison ivy. I have blisters on my body in places I heretofore did not know existed. The worst spots are the fleshy creases: toes, elbows, knees. Any time I move, those creases protest.
How did I contract the rash? It’s a mystery. My quarantine life has been spent on a couch watching Netflix or on a wooden chair attempting to write a best seller or walking on an asphalt road dragging a badly behaved goldendoodle. Most likely, I am the first case of poison ivy acquired by Immaculate Conception, hurled from heaven by the gods of infelicitous botanical afflictions.
Yesterday, I jumped in the pool in an attempt to quell the incessant itching. As I finished my last lap, I realized I hadn’t felt the urge to scratch in over a half hour. No sooner had I allowed joy to flood my heart than a large insect landed in my hair. When I swatted it away, I felt a stab of pain, unlike any sting I’d ever experienced. Gone were the happy pheromones swimming had engendered. Was it a murder hornet? Doubtful. They don’t seem to have arrived in Virginia. Most likely it was a mayhem wasp, an apt animate metaphor for my pandemic life.
In this year of our lord 2020, I find myself in a constant state of agita. Agita is the Italian term for the indigestion one feels when agitated by circumstances. For example, this is how my Italian grandmother might use agita in a sentence. “Whatsamatter for you? You givva me agita when you whack you brother with bocce ball.”
Today, while skimming the newspaper, I read about global warming, hurricanes, tornados, the upcoming flu and the coronavirus, of course. Mother Nature does seem to be after all of us.
However, maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s not Mother Nature who has it in for us, but instead her malevolent distant cousin, Vengeful Vince. If so, I have a message for him, “Vince, you villainous varlet, you nefarious knave, cut it out. You’re giving us agita!”
Deborah Prum’s essays and articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Southern Living and Ladies’ Home Journal. Her fiction has won ten awards and has appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Across the Margin and Streetlight Magazine. Her radio essays air on NPR-member stations. She regularly gives workshops at WriterHouse.