As I write this I am sitting at my desk on the top floor of our two storey home overlooking our back garden. It is late spring, and the star jasmine, in full flower over the arbour for the last couple of weeks, is starting to show signs of turning to summer brown. It has crept over the fence and is trying to capture our neighbour’s trees and so once it has flowered it will need a severe pruning.
I have found that the milky sap that bleeds from the vine when I prune it, has the ability to burn my skin. There is no sensation at the time, but if the milk and my skin connect for too long I have more than once developed an almost acid type burn that has taken months to disappear.
So, a reasonable person would think that knowing this, I would take precautions to protect my delicate, petal like skin; however, this is not the case. I continually choose to run the gauntlet of risk and snip and prune with gusto trying to avoid contact with the milk sap, which is not all that easy and it is thin enough to drip at times.
If I do notice some on my skin, I either make a mad dash into the house to wash and dry the offending part, or if merely on my hand I rub the poor hand on the nearest patch of grass, and return to my task. Sometimes I go through this routine more than once. Afterwards, I stress that I have not done enough, and worry that welts will appear on some unnoticed place, such as my gorgeous face.
Still, I don’t dress appropriately in long sleeves, or wear safety goggles. I wear my spectacles, so I can see, but they really offer little protection.
So what makes a person take a risk, even when they know the possible outcomes? I often wonder this about young people in particular. Why do they risk their lives do senseless, and extreme things? We have recently in Australia, had a young person killed while planking, another while trying to cross a railway line even though it was evident the train was approaching, and a third who died while experimenting with a choking game (game?).
I have no answer for why those young people threw away their lives, except to wonder if perhaps it is to gain recognition from their peers, some sort of position in the peer group. No one can really know except the individual.
In my instance, I guess it is a mix of opportunity, expedience and laziness. I often don’t plan to prune right then, but I might be taking the kitchen scraps to the compost bin and I see the vine leaping over the fence, and next thing I am pruning. I do like a good prune, a trait I inherited from my Dad! I am obviously doing other tasks, so I want to minimise my time and effort, and so I don’t prepare, or take the time to change my clothes, and maybe the biggest one of all, I am more than a little bit lazy.
We all know the risks involved, we always do, but something in our nature makes us take the risk anyway. Obviously, we think there is some reward in it for us, a reward that is greater than our fear of any risks. Is this in our genes, or in our culture?
Then again, what came first, the chicken or the egg?