Conversations meander when you fly across the whole country. That’s why I’m not sure how this started. But this is how it ended.

The captain said, “A lot of times I say things to get my wife mad. She’ll give me the finger.”

I laughed and said, “That’s healthy.”

“I was at dinner with my daughters the other day and I started explaining this to them,” he said. “You see, Japanese are called j***s. Vietnamese are called n**s. Chinese are called ch***s. Koreans are called g***s. But they all fall under the umbrella of being called sl***s.”

When I was a kid, and the conversation at the supper table veered into terrain that was unacceptable, my mom would say that it wasn’t “table talk.” The guy was at supper with his wife and kids, so I said, “That doesn’t sound like table talk.” I cleared my throat and took a sip of coffee and looked out the window at the plains.

“You’re probably right,” he said.

I waited a few potatoes and then said, “My mother-in-law is from mainland China.” I let him draw his own conclusions about how much Asian blood my kids have.

He stammered a bit. Not as much as I hoped. “Well, I wasn’t being mean, I was just saying what words people used to say.”

“Mm hmm,” I said.

We were flying from west to east. I dislike flying east. I wrote a paper once about the body clock. Flying east is disruptive because you’re shortening the day. When people are placed in an environment with no clues about time, the body expands to about a 27-hour day. So, flying west and expanding the day is easier on the body than flying east. I always feel like somebody is stealing my life going east.

Regardless which direction I’m flying, I regularly complain to my wife that I’m not home. Not on my ski trails or my running trails or my bike trails with my children and my wife and my dog. I’m sitting in a hotel in Nashville right now. I shouldn’t complain about flying through the sky, but I do. And I daydream about being home.

We just moved into a new home. I’m trying to figure out what already exists in the backyard. It’s coming up in front of me for the first time in our first summer there. I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking. There’s an abundance of life in the yard. It’s probably been around me all along in other places, but I’m learning about species for the first time. I just figured out that one shrub is chokecherry and not black cherry. I’ve got honeysuckle. Nightshade. Black locust. White spruce and I think some blue spruce.

I wanted to add to the symphony, so I went to Menards and bought two rhubarb plants. I like rhubarb crisp and pie and whatever you pour sugar on it for. One plant didn’t take. The other one took off really well, but I think a rabbit nipped off the new shoots, so it’s struggling. I’ll probably buy some chicken wire to protect the remaining leaves. My parents said I should plant it with a 2018 penny. A tradition, they said. A penny for the year you planted it. I planted it with a 2001 penny, because I couldn’t find a penny for this year. That year was pretty significant for my family and will do just fine. I read somewhere on the intertoobz that the penny is actually there to prevent blight, as long as it’s a pre-1983 penny made of copper. Some sort of chemical thing. Well, I guess my modern penny is purely symbolic.

I also learned, after much research and help from friends, that I have a plant called dwarf Japanese knotweed (fallopia japonica var. compacta). It spreads through rhizomes underground. If you flail it, a tiny piece of the root will start another whole plant. You basically have to nuke it from orbit.

I just moved into this house. It’s the last house. I’ll be pulled from this house on a gurney. My housewarming gift is a giant patch of an invasive weed that’s next to impossible to destroy. But I’ve decided that when I’m down with Leo checking on the rhubarb, I’m going to yank out a dozen or so weeds by the roots. I’ll keep working around the perimeter until I work it back to the foot of that pretty Norway maple with the deep burgundy colored leaves. (Another tree I was not aware of, somehow.) I’m not going to dedicate my life to those weeds. But I’m going to destroy them, little by little, whenever I can. The guides suggest that fire is the only way to effectively destroy any remnants. So, I’m going to build a little fire ring down there. Have a little fire. Pull some weeds. Incinerate them. With some luck, I may eventually eliminate them all. Probably not, but the patch will certainly be smaller when I’m done.



About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Invasives

  1. Lisa Stice says:

    I’ve encountered “invasive weeds” on a much more regular basis since being stationed here. At every single birthday party my kiddo and I have attended, AT LEAST one parent in attendance has told a racist joke or said some sort of racist thing. There is no appropriate place, but choosing kids’ birthday parties as a venue for hateful/hurtful/unkind/closed-minded/alienating/bullyish speech seems even more inappropriate than the general venue. You’re right, calling them out on it is like weeding a yard one noxious weed at a time. I like your metaphor. It makes me feel less discouraged. Plus, your metaphor will remind me to think of all the beautifully kind people (like your maple tree) I have met.

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