I Wisteria You Well
Wisteria is a quintessential Southern vine. It doesn't just grow, it climbs. It doesn't just hang, it drapes itself with the appearance of heaviness, fullness, ripeness, that belies its actual fragility.
During my first year of law school I lived in an apartment complex that was one long row of buildings facing a concrete wall separated by the driveway. That wall was covered with what may well have been a single long wisteria vine. I didn't notice it when I moved in in August, but come March it was impossible to miss.
The branches looked like gnarly old fingers coming over the edge of the concrete wall and the flowers were so dense that you couldn't see the wall itself. One Sunday morning, a perfect spring day (of which Macon, Georgia does not have many), I walked up that driveway to attend church at Vineville United Methodist and, after having fortified my soul and not yet been caught up in the afternoon's studies, I could not resist cutting two or three arms full of the wisteria and bringing it in into my tiny one-bedroom apartment. I stuck clusters in drinking glasses all over the apartment, feeling both a little grown up and very much like a child playing house.
Within half an hour, though, I could not breathe. The allergic reaction to the wisteria was quick and complete and I had no choice but to purge my tiny living space of the beautiful blossoms. Holding my breath as much as possible I scooped them up and took them outside and, then, came back inside and washed my hands and my eyes with cold water.
For years, as long as I can remember really, a number of trees on our road hosted wisteria vines. During their blooming season, I cut my walks short, turning around to go back home before my nose could take in much more than a single sniff. A few years ago, however, the maintenance crew from the EMC cut down those trees and with them the wisteria. I watched as the branches of the slain trees dried out and the wisteria vines withered. Despite the fact that it meant I no longer had to truncate my walking, I was a little sad. The harbinger of spring upon which I could reliably depend was gone.
Today I went walking before lunch. We won't be able to do that for long. The real heat is going to be upon us soon and Owen and I will have to curtail these midday walks, replacing them with late afternoon treks. About a quarter of the way home a flash of lavender caught my eye and I turned to see three ... four ... five clusters of wisteria hanging on rotting chinaberry logs, close to the ground and caught in a tangle of weeds.
They are back, I thought to myself with not a little excitement. The wisteria that was collateral damage of the tree trimming, that I had assumed had died off with its host, was alive. Somehow, somewhere in the pile of rubble that the chainsaws left, a seed had managed to survive.
Dormant for a very long time, perhaps it was the excessive rains of this winter and early spring that brought it to life. Perhaps it was some atomic-particle-sized floral will to live. I have no idea, but I grabbed the object lesson and ran with it.
There has been so much death in the past year. So much that I am, quite frankly, tired of thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it. I want to move on in the worst possible way.
But there is no moving on. The death of a person, a relationship, an expectation is never really final. The seed from which it sprang remains. Somewhere. Perhaps in the ground where it fell, perhaps in the craw of a bird or a raccoon. Perhaps only in memory. But it still exists and someday, some bright spring day here or elsewhere, it will break open and come to life. It will bloom again.