I love kudzu, I really do.
One of the stories in the book I recently finished writing (and which I am currently seeking to publish) deals tangentially with kudzu. Here's a couple of lengthy quotes from the story:
--I began noticing kudzu when I was twelve years old. I had seen it before, I’m sure, a fact borne out by the shameful existence of an old photograph. In it, six-year-old me can be seen gleefully sliding down an ivy-cloaked hillside, a ripped-open cardboard box serving as a sled. This southern summer version of the northern winter’s tobogganing was my father’s idea. He was a product of central Indiana and had romantic ideas concerning the aforementioned Yankee sport--despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that there are no hills near his childhood home.
--“Lightning, you’ve grown like a weed in the last three days,” my dad said. He called me Lightning for years, later explaining that he did so because I was consistently slow moving.
Then, as always, I sought specificity. I asked him what kind of weed. Not that I cared. I simply needed the information.
“Kudzu. You’re growing like kudzu. You know, it can grow up to a foot a day in the summer,” he said.
My brother chimed in, saying, “Kudzu’s that green vine you were talking about back there.” Then he wheeled his bicycle onto the carport and began stripping off the tent, sleeping bag and other accoutrements.
My dad didn’t share my brother’s reticence, especially when he was presented with an opportunity to resume his former avocation. He had been a college professor--of astronomy and geology, to be specific-- before turning his attention to engineering and was always quick to jump on any chance to inform “those unfortunates who have previously been deprived of my valuable knowledge.”
And so it was that I learned about kudzu--how it had been brought over from Japan to control erosion in the southern states, how it had few other uses, how it grew more quickly and was harder to kill than just about anything else that grows.
This particular weed, my dad opined, was Japan’s revenge for having two cities destroyed by atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The American government may have bombed the Japs, he said, but since the war America has been paid back in full as a Japanese weed steadily smothers the South in this blanket of green. He left the issue open as to which attack he deemed more reprehensible.
“Those trees you described, the dead ones in the middle of the kudzu fields, you know how they died?” he asked. “They were smothered by the vines. Eventually, there won’t be anything left growing in this part of the country, except for kudzu. The only thing to do would be to dig it all out and burn it.”
--At dinnertime my father still concluded his prayer of thanks for the food by saying, “Forgive us where we fail,” as if he truly expected God to hear and listen to the prayer, as if he expected never to be pulled from God’s personal garden.
I grew like a weed.
And I still think the lively green of kudzu is more beautiful than the brown of bare earth.
----Thus endeth the story and the book. It's called "And the meek shall inherit". Jessica (the wife) says it's fitting that the book title and the last words of the book should go together to say "and the meek shall inherit the earth," more or less.
But then, as Sting said in one of his more pedantic songs, "What good is a used-up world, and how could it be worth having?"
And so it goes.