August 12, 2015

The Stinging Nettle

A trip in Utah wouldn't be complete without taking the opportunity to hike one of the beautiful mountain trails.  Reunited with Lance once again, we threw on our sneakers and hats and went off on a family hike along the Stewart Falls trail behind Sundance.

Deja vu.

20 years ago, I would jog the Stewart Falls trail every morning before I started my day as a camp counselor in a family camp resort tucked behind Timpanogos mountain.  Every Wednesday afternoon, I took a crazy crew of 15-30 little kids ages 10-12 on that hike.

The former was bliss.  The latter was sheer torture.  Our campers included children that spent their lives running up and down those mountains, and children that never stepped foot from out of the front of their video game monitor.  We had children that would run off, and others that clung to our leg in tears because they missed their mom.  I carried a backpack full of peanut butter and honey sandwiches that were all squished into one soggy ball of wheat bread and some brown apple slices to offer them when we finally arrived at the summit of the hike at which time some pronounced to me they couldn't walk a single step back and I carried them off the mountain.  Hump day lived up to its name that summer.

Every Wednesday the hike was the same.  We started along the trail which had a pile of large sticks.  The campers would all insist that they needed a walking stick and my co-counselor and I would wait while they painstakingly picked their perfect stick out of the pile.  As the summer passed, a pile of sticks was growing about 25 yards beyond the original pile of dead sticks, where they would discard their walking stick after they decided it was more trouble than it was worth.

Much further into the hike we would warn them of the Stinging Nettle growing along side of the trail.  At first it would be a few plants here and there, but for a long stretch of the narrow path it was overly abundant.  It was growing over the trail with little room to pass untouched.  Some kids would whack it down with a branch as they walked.  Others would do a careful choreography to side step and avoid the touch of the nettle leaves that would leave an itchy, stinging rash.  It was impossible to avoid.  As a remedy, I had been told, rubbing the leaves of the Lamb's Ear plant would take away the stinging itch.  I pointed out to the kids the Lamb's Ear as we would walk by.  They would pull all the soft fuzzy leaves off of the plant and stuff them into their pockets for later use.  As I watched the campers frantically rubbing the Lamb's Ear on their fresh stings, they seemed soothed.  Whether by the medicinal benefits of the plant, or by pure placebo effect, it worked.

Fast forward 20 years and I was on that hike with four of my own.  We dodged most of the Stinging Nettle, and Eliza tightly clung to some Lamb's Ear just in case.  The kids loved going behind the waterfall and picking all the M&M's out of the trail mix as we sat to catch our breath and enjoy the scenery.

As I hiked I couldn't help but reflect at how much life had changed in those two decades.  Some parts of my path I could have likely forecasted, others I could not have.  But the similarity in that path and my own I am walking now is the Stinging Nettle.

My trail is full of Stinging Nettle.  Some I can avoid, some I try to dance around.  When you get tired of being stung, once in a while you might be like those children and whack the Stinging Nettle out of your path.

Some tell me I should whack all of the Stinging Nettle out of my path, others tell me I should just walk through it, getting stung with my chin held high and press on and ignore the stinging itchy rash.  Some say that I shouldn't feel the rash because it wasn't the intention of the plant to sting.  Does lack of intent absolve us of the liability of any rude thing that could come out of our mouth?  If only.

The other day I had come from a doctor's appointment hearing some awful news with Bridger.  

I went to Target where I was pushing Bridger through the aisles and a couple older children said some very rude things about people with special needs that I won't repeat every time we wheeled passed them.

I just wanted to buy a loaf of bread.

After Target I went to lunch with him after and wheeled in to have the person in front of us staring at him then looking at me and saying {at 60 decibels}, "What's WRONG with HIM??"

"Oh, it is just a rare condition," I whispered.

"Can he speak?" she said looking at me. "CAN YOU SPEAK?" looking at Bridger. "HE CAN'T SPEAK," looking at her husband.

"He can when he feels like it," I answered back explaining all that I felt necessary.

I just wanted to order my taco.

We left the restaurant and went to the library.  While I was waiting at the reference desk I watched Bridger roll himself over to the children's area.  A boy ran screaming away from him with a look of sheer horror like he had just seen a monster.  His mom tucked him safely under her arm as Bridger just sat there watching the boy with a sad confused face at why someone would run away from him screaming in terror.

I just wanted to take him to the library for a book.

This was just a snapshot of our morning that day, which matched our afternoon of that day, which mirrors the rest of the days of that week which is identical to our months.

The hike is worth it, the view is beautiful.  Forgive me if I whack a weed out of my way every once in a while.  Sometimes it is the final little nettle plant that gets the brunt for the other larger plants .  I am trying to learn how to manage the hike, but for the meantime I will keep my pockets loaded with Lamb's Ear.