Kindling a kudzu interest

During the summer of 2003 (I remember this distinctly because I was so pregnant with Emerson that my theory that no matter how much weight I gained, my shoes would always fit flew right out the window. I was gianormous!), my half-sister, Lindsay, flew from Missoula, Mont., to visit for a week.
At the time, I was still teaching at Clemson and the responsibility for one business writing course gave me ample free time to eat and get ready for Emerson’s expected September arrival.
My ex-husband Allen and I were living in Liberty that summer, so it was an easy drive along highway 93 to 12 Mile Beach in Clemson. The week Lindsay stayed with us, she and I drove that route almost daily to soak up the sun and then cool off in Lake Hartwell.
Lindsay, who was only 13 or 14 at the time, was already a talented artist and photographer, much like my step-mom. She had a keen eye for detail, and I can remember her paying particularly close attention to the flora and fauna native to South Carolina.
What caught her eye along our Highway 93 travels were the thick, luscious tangles of Kudzu — green tendrils curling around defenseless structures. Like lying in the grass on a spring day watching cloud formations overhead, Lindsay pointed out the way the vine grew into definable shapes.
Together we identified a kudzu buffalo, a kudzu Frankenstein with arms outstretched, and a kudzu rocket ready to blast off into outer-space.
We stopped to take photographs of all the kudzu shapes we indentified along highway 93.
Funny. I had driven that same stretch of highway — at least twice a day — going to and coming home from work. I’m sure my eyes took in the copious mounds of kudzu covering everything in sight, but those drive-by glances never made it into the processing part of my mind.
As is the case with so many other things in life, after a certain period of time I stopped paying attention to the kudzu, allowing it to blend in with the rest of my surroundings. It took Lindsay marveling over all this kudzu to bring it to my attention.
I’ve heard Kudzu referred to as “the vine that ate the south” and I get a chuckle at the moniker. For some, kudzu is no laughing matter, as it does grow over and choke the life out of other plant life.
I suppose I am fortunate in that kudzu has never been something I have had to battle. In the homes where I have lived, there have been patches of kudzu, but it has always existed on the fringes of my life — bright green leaves acting as accessories along the creek bed on my property or stretching up along the stone structures that support the small foot bridge above the creek.
Menacing is not a word I would use to describe kudzu. In fact, I happen to find the stuff fascinating; and the more I researched it as a possible topic for our features section, the more interesting information I found.
Like it or not, kudzu, I believe, is here to stay. And it has become definitively southern — like warm biscuits and gravy, juicy, freshly-picked peaches, and the phrase “Bless his (or her) heart!” I’m for embracing kudzu as part of our southern history and heritage.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you kudzu, you’ll never be in short supply!