Week Eight: What I Learned from Kudzu

What is a Kudzu?

Some weird Japanese food? Godzilla’s distant relative? A traditional costume?

The first time I heard of this word was when a friend from Florida came to visit us in Asheville for the weekend. We were on our way to Lake Lure to check out the Dirty Dancing Festival and had a good hour to see the sights along the way. He mentioned Kudzu in passing.

But wait, Dirty Dancing? Who doesn’t LOVE Dirty Dancing??? Right? Patrick Swayze and Baby dancing to “the time of their lives”?

*music cue ~ Now, I’ve had the time of my liiife. No, I never felt like this before….Yes, I swear its the truuth and I owe it all to yoouuu..

Is this showing my age? Meh. But I bet you feel like dancing now.

So Lake Lure was part of where that iconic movie was shot in the 80s. This little town decided to make a festival out of it to pay homage to the movie and of course, to showcase its sights. In other words, business.

We had such high hopes going to the festival, until… we found out that tickets are at $25 to get in. JUST A TICKET. You don’t get anything, no free drinks, no t-shirts, no food. And what was going on? Nothing. Just some folks teaching you how to “dirty dance”, a couple of dancers performing to, guess what, songs from the movie, a watermelon contest, a handful of booths selling what nots, two food trucks and a long line where people who purchased tickets online can get their free bags and a Dirty Dancing t-shirt. All of us felt $25 was just too much! Total bummer!

Unless you are a huge, huge Dirty Dancing fan or if maybe Patrick Swayze** would for some reason make a special appearance, I would not recommend going to this festival (if they would still have it next year). You are better off just checking out Lake Lure, supposedly one of the top prettiest man-made lakes in the country. They have tons of outdoor stuff to do too.

But what has Kudzu got to do with all this Dirty Dancing stuff anyway?

First off, Wikipedia defines Kudzu, otherwise known as Japanese arrowroot, as a group of plants from the pea family that are climbing, coiling and trailing vines native to eastern Asia, southeast Asia, and some Pacific Islands. It has a pretty purple flower but the plant itself is considered to be a seriously invasive and noxious weed. It grows so fast and climbs over trees and shrubs and other plants and kills them by heavy shading, which is more like, suffocating the oxygen out of them. What a slow death for those poor trapped plants!

Kudzu was introduced into the US, most specifically the Southeast in 1876 as an ornamental plant for shade. The government even paid farmers in the 1930s – 40s to plant Kudzu as a means to stop soil erosion. After that time, this seemingly innocent vine has spread, uncontrollably. It has been known as the “vine that ate the south”.

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photo credit: Eleanor Rigby at freeimages.com
800px-Kudzu_on_trees_in_Atlanta,_Georgia
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
800px-Kudzu_field_horz2
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

We got some serious killer vines out there! Destroying and eating up anything and everything in its path. It’s time to bring out Godzilla!!!! Oh, boy. Sorry, I got carried away.

But despite of all the negative effects it has on Southeastern states, it still has its uses. It can be used as livestock feed, fertilizer, erosion control, basketry, medicine and even for food and beverage!

Well, learning about Kudzu and its very unique characteristics bring me to some serious thinking that there is a “Kudzu” in everyone’s life. Remember that co-worker whose very presence exudes negativity and every snide comment or pessimist attitude she throws at the world just makes you want to run and hide in the bathroom else you get choked up by her toxic fumes? That clingy “friend” who you originally thought was your real friend that turned out to be in the end a voracious parasite sucking out your life energy? Or a dire situation wherein you thought there was no coming out of it and it was so easy to just succumb to its sweet evil welcoming embrace?

How many times have we dealt with Kudzus? How many times were we Kudzus ourselves? How many times were we put in a Kudzu-like situation?

No matter what, life always teaches us something. No matter how grim the reality may be, no matter how bleak the future may seem, life always finds a way. Humankind is not destined to be doomed and eaten up by the Kudzus. There will always be survivors. That one single tree that refuses to surrender. That one brave soul who stands up against the sea of inhumanity.

But even then, Kudzus have a good side too. Like every negative situation turned positive. Like every cloud with a silver lining. Like that toxic co-worker who at first you would avoid with your life but turns out, is undergoing this nasty never-ending divorce and child custody battle with her ex. Like that clingy friend who after all has just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Like that dire situation that ended up being the best moment in your life!

You see, there are always two sides to a coin. The good and bad. The yin and yang. Life balances us just like that.

So what about Dirty Dancing and Kudzu? Nothing. If we hadn’t gone to that “useless” festival, I wouldn’t have discovered Kudzu! Something good coming out of a bad situation. I think thats how we should look at things from now on.

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Peace out!

** Addendum: Hubby this morning reminded me that Patrick Swayze has long passed away from pancreatic cancer. God rest his soul. I totally forgot about that! So, that would give his “special appearance” if ever, a “Ghost”-like movie-ish effect.

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