Mary Beth Writes

Wisteria is a plant that grows on woody twining vines and is in the legume (beans!) family. It’s native to China, Korea, Japan, southern Canada, and eastern US.

Wisterias climb by twining their stems around any available support. Japanese wisteria twines clockwise, Chinese wisteria twines counterclockwise. The plant can grow to a huge size; there’s a Chinese wisteria in California that covers more than an acre and weighs 250 tons. Both Chinese and Japanese wisteria were introduced in the US in the 1800’s. These days, because of their hardiness and tendency to escape cultivation, non-native wisterias are considered invasive species. Also, all parts of the wisteria plant are a little or a lot poisonous.

Botanist Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859) said he named the genus Wisteria in memory of American physician Caspar Wistar; when questioned about the spelling, Nuttall said it was for "euphony.” Nuttall’s biographer speculated that it may have something to do with Nuttall's friend Charles Jones Wister.

Thomas Nuttall, who never married, sounds like a fabulous man. He traveled widely, explored places barely seen by Europeans at that time - Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, the Missouri River, and the Great Lakes. He collected and categorized plants, taught at Harvard several years and then quit to go off exploring again. Usually with just one or two other men (obviously, European women were rarely able to join expeditions). One can hope this interesting man found love and joy as well as plants and trees during his adventures.

I was sitting here, remembering the Wisteria I actually walked into on a Santa Fe sidewalk. Those flowers were outrageously gorgeous. The overpoweringly sweet scent immediately time-traveled me back to Grandma Esther’s lavender bathroom that smelled that exact sweetness. Now I know, Grandma bought Wisteria talc.

Wisteria Fable

The nation was ravaged by feral canaries. When people walked out of their homes - mauve, plum, indigo, violet, orchid, periwinkle, mulberry, heliotrope, hyacinth, amaranthine, azure, and damson birds would streak from the sky, shrieking tiny chirps, delivering picks and pecks like small pneumatic nail guns.

Citizens were wounded, worried, scared, and bleeding from the tiny holes in their heads and shoulders and arms.

Those who could, start working from home. Socializing was reduced to urgent and bewildered Zooming. Essential workers wore helmets and shoulder pads to sprint across driveways and parking lots into their warehouse jobs. Delivered restaurant and grocery store orders arrived at one’s porch with peck-hole leaks, torn fruits, ripped vegetables, and decimated packaging.

No one knew what to do. Journalists reported on their crisis from their white living rooms while fuchsia and lavender canaries rapped noisily at their windows.

The future was beak-bleak.

Then one day an elegant 12-year-old child walked out of his house - and the canaries stood still in the air. For that child, on that day, wore an entire outfit covered in small mirrors. Every square inch of his outfit glittered with shards of broken mirrors, and the round mirrors from old makeup compacts, and the beveled edges of outdated bathroom medicine cabinets. There were spangles hanging from his lapels. His uncle had forgotten his cowboy hat the last time he visited; the boy had covered it with rainbow strips of color mirrors edged with dangling beads. He wore gym shoes with mirrors super-glued to the toes and heels. The boy was a flashing, glittering, vision of light.

As he sauntered down the sidewalk canaries from around the state were stunned by his brilliance and then attracted to his arcs and rays of flashing light. The canaries circled his head and shoulders, looking at themselves, preening, cooing, weaving, and wafting. The elegant boy had evoked his own murmuration of Wisterian canaries.

Then, the birds fell in love with each other. They zipped to far-flung jungles to lay teeny blue eggs and raise tiny periwinkle families. The canaries never bothered humans again.

From that day onwards when Wisteria blooms, those who know how to be grateful, are.

No problem is truly fixed until wrongdoers see themselves clearly.

 

 

Comments

I so enjoy your posts, and your stories. Thank you, Mary Beth. Patricia
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Thanks for saying so! I appreciate hearing it!

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Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'

4/1/2024

The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

Ghost on a Post / Poetry with Third Graders

3/12/2024

This is what I texted to Len this afternoon after I finished the poetry class with third graders. “I’m done and back. The kids were great and I’m a limp washrag, Teaching forty 8-year-olds for 90 minutes is way more energy than Everest.” I then drank half a beer (I NEVER drink in the afternoon) and fell asleep until the Mineral Point afternoon ‘change of shift siren’ shrieked for several minutes. It’s been a full day.

How 2 Write a Poem (3rd grade edition)

3/7/2024

Next week is my Writers Week at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. I won this when my story “How Crow Got Out of Jail” (Read Here) won first prize in the 2023 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest for short fiction.

Winning that contest motivated me to open my Substack account. So far I’ve published 17 stories and only published once twice. (Who noticed that?)

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