Musing: Allergies: Nothing To Sneeze At

Mother Nature is enticing us here in Asheville with the first hints of spring. The brilliant sunshine in the crystal-clear blue skies raises the afternoon temperatures into the 60s and 70s. The morning chill can be warded off with a light jacket, not the layers of clothing we needed only a week or two ago.

Our twice-daily walks on the neighborhood greenway are no longer lonely affairs, devoid of others. Walkers, joggers, baby strollers, and dogs shake off the winter slumber and join us on the trails.

Neighbors work in their yards cleaning up seasonal debris, planting flowers, and pruning branches. Birds sing from the trees and even grumpy, hungry black bears emerge from their dens.

Old Man Winter is probably not done with us yet, but the days hold the hope of warmth and outdoors. Nothing invigorates me more than being outside in the fresh air.

On the other hand, nothing aggravates my allergies more than being one with nature. Every budding tree, blooming flower, and emerging blade of grass threatens me with a lack of oxygen.

After the last two years of pandemic madness, a cough, sneeze, or sniffle sends people scurrying for cover. Being an allergy sufferer is like being the most unpopular kid in school—nobody wants to sit at your lunch table.

Fortunately, I’m a writer so I’m used to being alone. I can work in my study all day, sneezing and coughing without fear of being ostracized. The dogs might move to another room because my noisy nose is interrupting their sleep, but I don’t take it personally. Not too much.

But at some point, I have to get out there, mostly because those same dogs insist on their walks. We’ll be strolling along saying hello to neighbors on the trail when I can feel the first tickle in my sinuses. Not wanting to be the neighborhood pariah, I try to hold the inevitable explosion until we are alone.

The funny thing about sneezes is that the more I try to stifle it, the harder it struggles to escape. A quick rub on the side of my nose only amplifies the tingle. Wriggling my nose encourages it to race for the light. A desperate squeeze with my fingers only makes my eyes water in sympathy. Then I’m staggering about blindly, hardly a way to avoid attention on a busy path.

I envy the silent sneezers among us. A quiet tilt of the head, perhaps a slight squeak of air, and the deed is done. How do you do that?

My sneezes can be measured on the Richter scale. Trees are uprooted from the violent winds. Windows shattered. The more I strive to contain them, the more explosive the outcome.

I muffle them the best I can by sneezing into the crook of my arm. When wearing a coat or a long-sleeve shirt, the explosion can be quieted somewhat.

Not so in short-sleeve weather. The force of air against bare skin creates a sound not unlike another bodily-escaping mass of air, though one with more odoriferous effect. A sneeze might get me ostracized, but that other goes over like, well, a fart in church.

We shan’t talk about those sneezes that are so hard, so forceful that air escapes from both ends. A snoot and a toot, if you will. But that’s a whole different musing which I shall save for another day. Bet you can’t wait.

After that first explosive sneeze, women grab their children, dogs cower, and birds fall silent in shock. Worse, their attention is now riveted on the sneezer. Me. And I know there is more to come.

No sneeze happens alone. A second will follow. And a third.

Seriously, you single sneezers annoy me almost as much as a silent sneezer. And if you are a single silent sneezer, we can’t be friends.

By the time the third eruption is complete, I look around through tear-filled eyes and discover I’m alone. People have fled for safety. All that is left for me to do is blow my nose, sterilize the crook of my arm, take a deep breath, and walk on down the trail.

No! Wait! Not a deep breath.

Ah-choo!


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With the crystal clear weather we’ve had, the evenings have been great for some stargazing. Orion has always been one of my favorite constellations, partially because it’s so easy to find once you spot Orion’s belt, the three bright stars in a row. Did you know that an asterism is a group of stars that form a pattern in the sky? The word comes from the Greek asterismos which means to arrange into constellations.

So what’s the difference between a constellation and an asterism? To put it simply, the International Astronomical Union recognizes 88 official constellations. An asterism is a familiar grouping of stars that is not a constellation. The grouping could be a part of a larger constellation or a pattern that includes stars from different constellations.

And this is where things get interesting. The Big Dipper is NOT a constellation, but is an asterism which is a part of the constellation Ursa Major (The Big Bear).

So next time you are star gazing with someone, you can impress them with your vocabulary.


Gratuitous Dog Picture

His Royal Highness Little Prince Typhoon Phooey doesn’t share my allergies, so he enjoys a lazy spring afternoon sprawled in the grass.

Stretched out in the grass

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4 Comments

  1. Jean Burkhardt on March 7, 2022 at 6:29 am

    Oh Hu-Dad-Allergies really take a toll on you. UH-OH-those sneezes with people running for the hills these days when a cough or sneeze scares them!

    Typhoon looks like he at least isn’t worried about the pollen count!

  2. Juno's mom on March 7, 2022 at 11:40 am

    That was hilarious Hu-Dad. The differences in sneezes from person to person is really interesting. Luckily Typhoon dosn’t have that to deal with.

  3. Karen on March 7, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    I am very anti-social so I love when I start sneezing because people don’t come up to talk and kids don’t want to pet the “wolves”. 🙂 I am a silent sneezer so I have to be a little dramatic when I sneeze to get my point across.

    And Ty looks like a Prince. So beautiful, and sweet.

  4. chris on March 7, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    Hu Dad I have told you before “get yourself a homeopath” and those allergies will be long gone. I now enjoy outside and my husband who is allergic to dogs now enjoys our dogs because of homeopathy. If you do not try, you will never know.

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