Monday, March 5, 2012


I've been breaking down brush for a couple of weeks. Coralberry is the main species in the undergrowth. It took me several years to figure out that it breaks off between my thumb and forefinger more easily than I can cut it with loppers or a bow saw. Several years ago I cleared space for new garden beds under the local power line. It had been cleared before, but coralberry and greenbrier had repopulated like crazy. Coralberry propagates by runners and has bright burgundy berries that last all winter, but greenbrier is just evil. The locals call it wild rose, but it's a Smilax, not related to the genus Rosa — wild rose or dog rose. It provides habitat for birds, but it strangles the trees. It kills the woods. I break it off with my gloved hands. Before I sleep, I dig the thorns out of my fingers. It's worth it.

Wild grape is the most common vine in the areas I'm clearing. It tangles and coils around the trees. It winds its way to the sky, then brings down its host. I tried tearing it up. Dionysos gave me to understand that this was against his will. So I made an arrangement with him: I will refrain from pulling up or cutting down wild grape vines, and he will not pitch me down to the earth and throttle me with vines and falling branches or impale me on underbrush. I put a mask on a tree to represent Dionysos — to remind me to be respectful when I see his vines. I exist in these woods by the sufferance of the gods. I am part of something larger than myself, and more holy.

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