Tuesday, May 15, 2012

That Invincible Weed With Ugly Flowers

In the backyard of the house where I grew up, there was a grapefruit tree. We didn't take very good care of our yard, but the tree always looked like it was thriving, wild and overgrown. I wondered, with all that full, green leafage, why it didn't produce more and better fruit. Then one day, I looked a little closer and saw that the tree had actually been taken over by a weed.

It was that invincible weed with ugly flowers that my mother hated. That thorny vine with little curling tendrils and complicated blossoms I had taken a pseudo-scientific pleasure in dissecting as a child. That weed seemed almost impossible to kill. The stems were unbreakable and the roots developed enormous tubers, so that you couldn't pull them up--I remember throwing my entire weight into repeated attempts at pulling up those weeds, but I only succeeded in making my hands sore.

It took forever to dig up those bloated roots, and when at last the tubers lay, still cool, dirty, and huge upon the pavement, I shuddered as before some botanical obscenity. Having clipped the vines at their bases and pulled them down, out of the branches, I now saw the poor grapefruit tree as it truly was, gaunt and emaciated, victim of a wicked parasite. No wonder it hadn't been producing fruit.

Ever since then, I thought of that weed as a metaphor for neurosis and even the demonic--the way it created a false appearance of health and vitality, while clandestinely sapping all the life out of the tree.

Then, just a couple weeks ago, I was thinking to myself I wanted to get some soothing herbal tea--and I went to the store and found one called "Siete Azahares" / "Seven Blossoms"--which had a picture of that very weed on the box.

Apparently, it's called "Passionflower," and it has significant stress-relieving properties. Who knew! So, I guess after struggling for hours in the backyard against that plant, I should have made its leaves into tea to calm my frustration.

Correction: Oh, whoops--I was actually conflating two different weeds in my mind, both of which took over the grapefruit tree, but only one of which was invincible, with thorns--it had tiny blue berries and needle-like leaves, I think. If anyone knows what it is, please comment!

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