Monday, August 24, 2015

Like things smothered by their own Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts.

Galen Parks Smith

there's an interesting article about kudzu on the Smithsonian website today

In short (although it's definitely worth the read), it posits that the overwhelming belief that kudzu is a sprawling terror threatening to smother the American South is largely a farce. It claims that while the vine certainly does spread as vines are known to do, it has never been at a dangerous enough rate to be a concern.

It also tracks how much of this belief got started, proving once again that the internet only sped the rate at which misinformation spreads so much.

It's funny, because I've definitely heard all of the tropes mentioned about the vine before except maybe the idea of closing the windows at night because the vines will creep in*, one echoed in James Dickey's poem from which I've lifted the title above. But weirdly enough, I've seen more kudzu in Maryland than I did in the entire time I lived in Georgia (or even travelling throughout the rest of the south). Of course, I remember seeing it a lot more when I was a kid on road trips throughout the south as a kid. Although, now that most of my traveling is done on major highways (and usually on the West Coast), it's not like I get to see the real South as much as I'd like to.

This supports a lot of the article's claims, and I thought it was funny that when I tried to use Google Maps to locate one particularly nasty stretch of the stuff in Kent County, MD, it turned out to be off the street view map (making me feel a truly authentic Old Line stater in the process).

Anyway, one line from the article that I walked away with states that:

 A writer for Deep South Magazine recently gushed that kudzu isthe ultimate icon for the amazing metaphor for just about every issue you can imagine within Southern Studies.

Which is a pretty great point, in some ways. identifying the South through kudzu is an identifier not unlike describing southern California through the highways. It's helpful description and provides some regional flair, but it's also an indication of lazy writing or, worse, Google tourism, of which I am as guilty as anyone. 

But it's also a pretty apt metaphor for pretty much anything. I could use it to tie into the encroachment of the 2016 Presidential election, or the pervasiveness of beatboxing in general American culture. My point is... crap I don't have a point. My point is that metaphors are usually either crap writing or way too subtextual to have any real effect.

Actually, I think my point is that kudzu might be an invasive plant**, it looks pretty beautiful when draped over a sprawling landscape... especially when it's covering up some manmade relic carelessly left behind.

*this sounds both terrifying and also so, so hot in the summer. Also, sleeping with the windows closed anywhere that Kudzu would actually grow sounds like it would be a horrible way to deprive oneself of the beautiful summer night sounds that I still play recordings of in order to fall asleep at night. But then, the thought of green vines reaching in through the windows and enveloping me in my sleep has a certain Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe that might convince me to sleep in relative silence.

**"invasive species"  is rarely a positive descriptor, and this is no exception (Kudzu is the invasive species poster child, much like it would be toads and rabbits in Australia), but bamboo is far more invasive than kudzu and idiots still plant that all the time.

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