NOTE: This post should not be read as a recommendation to use poison oak for healing. It is purely speculative. Poison oak is a dangerously toxic plant...stay away!
For the first time in 40 years I've had a serious, full-body case of poison oak. I got it while on a weekend retreat with my men's group, the Raven Moon clan of initiates. The most painful part was on the palm of my hands where the skin was too thick to allow the blisters to open up. The rash stayed subsurface and burned intensely.
At the height of the ordeal I was laying awake in bed at night meditating. This gave me a chance to just be present with the rash and the effects of the amazingly potent oil, urishiol, that creates the rash. It came to me that in some way this ordeal might be medicine, that the reason I got poison oak now is that it was facilitating some kind of healing or transformation. I thought of the many stories I have read where people learned of their medicine and how to use it by undergoing an ordeal, typically much more serious than the one I was suffering.
So, I decided to not make up my mind but to be open to the possibility that poison oak had a positive message for me. Perhaps it is supporting my initiation process.
The rash has been gone for about two weeks now, and I'm feeling fine...but the skin on my palms is still shedding. Perhaps when this part is finished poison oak will have done its job of supporting some transformative process.
It's certainly a more appealing story than thinking of poison oak as merely treacherous. Some medicine is costly, some healing is demanding, and the gifts of spirit come often in forms we do not anticipate.
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.