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MYSTERY VINE IDENTIFIED
August 28, 2004
 
I really should have done something about it sooner, the mystery vine that appeared in the front garden a couple of months ago. It has now revealed itself to be the purveyor of dozens of beautiful but inedible gourds. Its tendrils have snaked up almost to the top of an evergreen tree, around the canes of a rosebush and straight through the middle of the aster patch. Its large leaves have completely covered an entire lavender bush. Perhaps today I will go out there and cut it off at its roots. Yes. Today.

And yet: two little boys came to visit last weekend and found the garden entrancing. They hid from each other in the bamboo forest, picked little tomatoes off the vine and ate them on the spot, marveled at the immense worms who live and work within the compost pile. They listened respectfully to Q describe the entire compost process: a guaranteed hit with children, since it involves worm turds.

And they loved the gourds. Loved the way the plant has gone everywhere there is to go. Were amazed that we didn't plant it, that it just grew - I reminded them about the compost, and showed them the volunteer tomato, descendant of a composted tomato of yesteryear. They picked a gourd apiece and took them home.

So I hesitate. Will we really have gourds hanging off the evergreen like Christmas ornaments? Will the rosebush really seem to have sprouted gourds? I've gone this far with my interloper -- how dare I cut him off, just when he is reaching the apex of his career? The time for that was when he was little, before he became what he has become. Now, I think I owe it to him to allow his life to unfold and end naturally.

Walking last evening, we stopped and chatted with a man who has a lovely garden in the front of his house. Very well-tended and planned, his garden -- he knows each specimen, and has a ten-year plan for the entire plot.

I live in the purple house on Middlesex Avenue, I told him.

He nodded. You have a big garden?

Yes.

I'll have to come and see.

Oh, yes, you must. But I thought of the wildness that remains, of the ivy everywhere. Of the volunteer tomato among the roses, and the runaway gourd. There are no volunteers in his garden.

I hope he delays his visit until the spring, when I don't have a forty-foot gourd plant all over everything, and a tomato growing among the roses. When we have built our little stone wall, and gotten the ivy out from in front of the forsythias and trimmed them further. When the daffodils are in bloom, and then the tulips.

The disapproval of the careful stings me more than it should. There is room in the world for both of us, after all, room and need: people who can order things efficiently, and people who can see the gift in the unexpected. There is even room within one soul for both people: everyone must plan, and everyone will be the better for a little flexibility.

I know that I will not cut down the gourd plant. I might remove a few leaves, so other plants can get the sun. Instead, I will harvest the gourds and put them in a box, and I will mail them to the two little boys who visited us last weekend. With no note inside -- when they open the box, they will remember.
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