Saturday, August 13, 2011


I fight a constant battle against the jasmine. Our relationship was not always this way. When it started, it was nothing more than a friendly debate. The jasmine would extend small, questing shoots over the path to the door, and I would gently trim them back. It was as though the jasmine was asking, "May I be here?" and I was responding, "No, I'm sorry, you'll have to stay in the flower beds."

As the summer grew brighter, the jasmine flowered. The sweet, intoxicating scent drifted through my window in the evenings, making it impossible to study. The jasmine called to me, "Come out and enjoy this evening! You need not sit inside!" Most nights, I ignored it with some effort. But my debate with the jasmine over its proper bounds became less gentle on my part. I loved the flowers, but they angered me as well, and I grasped the branches more forcefully and lopped a bit more ruthlessly than before.

In response, the plant grew bolder. Where before a few upstart branches had wavered over my front walk, now an energetic vine was crawling over my window. It grasped the window ledge and dug in. The scent in the evenings grew almost unbearable. The plant mocked me. Furthermore, it was losing all sense of propriety. I could not go out my door without a vine or two seeking to enter. I tried to explain things to it. I told it, "Look, I don't mind if you grow up against the wall, but you can't come inside!" The plant ignored me.

So I kept hacking it off. I trimmed, not just the new growth, but the older branches from which it sprung. The jasmine oozed sticky white sap from every cut, which adhered my pruning shears to my skin. As I worked, branches waved about and landed their oozing sticky ends in my hair. I sliced of branches and flung them into a pile. The cut branches kept fighting, refusing to go neatly into a trash bag. I had to shove them in almost a branch at a time, and even then, the bag was ripped to shreds by the time I was done.

The jasmine kept growing, even faster now. The vines crawling toward the windows became ropes that were starting to threaten the integrity of the screens. I could reach the ropes closest to the screens to cut them off, but not the more vigorous vines near the center of the window. The plant was beginning to fight dirty. It shoved strong branches through every gap in the wood that it could and climbed every available structure. For every branch I cut, five grew in its place. I admired the plant's rebellious spirit, but I was beginning to give up on the idea of peaceful coexistence.

Today, there was a branch inside. Not one that had fallen in when I opened the door. No, this was a branch that had wormed its way between the cracks in the door jamb. Tired of being cut back from its forays through the door, the jasmine had found an alternative route. This level of aggression could not be tolerated. I cut the branches bordering the walk back further than I had ever cut before. I waded among the branches to lop off the vines than were beginning to cover the window. I ripped exploring shoots from the cracks in the wood and flung then into a massive pile. I shoved the trimmings into the bag, heedless of flying sap, and hurled the bag into the trash.

The jasmine simply waved its fronds in the air and continued exhuming that amazing, alluring scent. It was not harmed. The battle will continue tomorrow.

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