By Stephanie Cavanaugh
MY PRINCE pulled a plant yesterday and tossed it in the compost bin.
It had been growing in a roomy pot in a sunny corner of the front porch all summer. I wasn’t sure what it was. It may have been a bird of paradise; the stroppy leaves were similar to those of the other three in pots scattered about. Or maybe it was a calla lily I transplanted last summer. Possibly it was a seed of something fabulous and exotic that I planted and completely forgot about, which is always possible. I was hoping for a wonderful surprise. Such hopes I had!
Anyway, it was coddled and tended throughout the summer. Well-fertilized and watered, thriving in that (rare) sunny patch, it grew and grew. We went away for a couple of weeks, and our wonderful neighbor Anouk nursed it while also tending the front and back yards and the window boxes and my trio of nasty parakeets—Cooper, Buddy and The Boss—who I half hoped would have finally chewed their way through the walls and escaped.
When we returned, the plant was over seven feet tall in its pot and as healthy as can be. It was growing like a weed, one might say.
“What is it?” My Prince wondered.
“Not sure yet,” said I.
Then it sprouted buds at the very top, and I recognized it, though I don’t know its name. This thing grows everywhere in total neglect.
“It’s a weed,” I said.
It’s not even a weed I covet, like Queen Anne’s Lace which is said to be invasive. How I’d love to have a frilly patch commandeer the curbside garden, or the alley fence line, so instead of foraging in the few remaining wild spaces in the neighborhood for stems. . . . There is nothing I like better in the heat of summer than a vaseful in the living room.
What are weeds, anyway? Just plants growing in the wrong place. Some are quite attractive. This particular weed was a nasty-looking piece of work, with an unpleasant crown of—you couldn’t even call those things flowers. Though I suppose, en masse, beside a country road perhaps, they might have a certain appeal, tall heads bobbling amid the thistles. Now there’s a handsome weed! Prickly but alluring. That’s all besides the point.
I developed inertia.
“Should I pull it?” he said, draping his lanky self in my office doorway, looking at me staring at a computer screen in my office, as I do.
“Yes,” said I.
“Maybe you want to take a photo of it?” He said.
I looked at him like he’s nuts and returned my eyes to the screen.
He wandered off and pulled the weed.
This morning he asked if I took that photo. He’s soft like that. Regretting the death of anything: fish, flowers, cars, dishwashers. Maybe he wanted to frame it. Our friend Robert takes pictures of lost gloves he finds in the street. We could have a photo wall of dead things.
“No, I didn’t,” I said.
“But you could have written about it,” he said, to which I said nothing for an extended period, as I do.
“Why?” said I.
“Because it’s interesting,” he said. “We were growing this plant all summer not knowing it was a weed.”
Yes, I thought, that was pretty foolish.
“So, it’s a story,” he said.
That is so. And here it is.