I love North Carolina. I really do.
But I wonder why the Piedmont persists in challenging my right to live. Specifically, my right to breathe.
This spring has been the most challenging of all my 20 years in the state. For months I have been convinced that the normal percentage of water in the human body has been wildly surpassed in my own. My eyes water. My nose drips. My ears pop.
We have used our leaf blower to clear off the layers of yellow dust that collect overnight on our car.
My husband, Ralf, is very nearly allergic to North Carolina itself (he thinks N.C. stands for "nasal congestion"). He is worse off. He recently went shopping and brought home a veritable crate of nasal mist.
There's a machine in our house that is normally used to clean teeth. Ralf has to use it to shoot water spiked with baking soda through his nasal passages.
You get the picture. It isn't pretty.
We are not alone. In my university classes, I have met with students with swollen, red-rimmed eyes, carrying boxes of tissues in their backpacks, and handing me exams I would rather not touch.
Last week, after a light rain, the pollen in our area congealed into a yellow paste. Wheezing, sneezing rabbits struggled to get free.
"Ralf," I said over our breakfast tea, "Mother Nature is attacking us."
"That is certainly nothing to be sneezed at," Ralf said absent-mindedly. He riffled through the morning paper.
"We will die coughing at her hands," I suggested. "It will be an ignominious death."
Ralf looked up. He had an idea. (I can always tell when Ralf has an idea. His right eyebrow goes up.)
"Before we die," he said, "we should suggest something to our governor."
"Yes...?" I asked warily.
"Let's declare the state dance the pollen-aise."
"Grandfather Mountain could be renamed Mount Sinus." I groaned again.
"They could sell tablets there."
"Be serious," I said. "We have to do something! How will we survive?"
Ralf thought it over. "Move to Wasilla, Alaska? Then our problems would be Palin' in comparison."
"I have a headache just thinking about it," I said. "I am going Bayer hunting."
Off I went to case the cabinets. I found a tea in the back of one shelf. It said it would soothe sore throats.
I comforted myself over that cup of tea. Because, as everyone knows, all things come to those who wait.
Summer is almost here. Ninety-plus humid degrees. Concrete so hot the rain rises in steam when it hits ground.
I love North Carolina. I really, really do.