vines…

in looking for some photos of my son that I had taken with a famous friend, who had just passed away…

….I went down the rabbit hole to 30 years ago, when we all spent a lot of time together…

I found the corner of the box of photos that included the one I was looking for, and found a whole lot of other people, too.

And I looked at myself with those people — what I looked like then. I looked rather hollowed out in more than a couple of them, and it got me thinking about how that particular phrase came to describe someone who’s being consumed by something.

It can be a lot of things that hollow a person out. Health can take it out of you. A traumatic loss. Drugs and alcohol can wear you down, especially if you’re using them to “fix” the health or traumatic loss.

And it made me think of the vines we photographed a couple weeks ago in the woods behind our house. I’d seen some big Tarzan vines a couple years ago, and wanted to try to photograph them in better light. One was this big empty one. It was connected top and bottom, at least 10 feet tall — and there was nothing in it. It was just a large, very uniform, rigid corkscrew of a vine as big as my arm.

It had to have been wrapped around a tree to have grown that big and tall – but where did the tree go?!

I picture it wiggling out and slipping away, but my sister suggested a pine. We have lots of those.

“They’re soft, and they have shallow roots,” she pointed out.

So that means that a vine grew up with the pine tree, circling it over and over as both of them grew bigger and taller. The vine destroyed the host tree, which then rotted from within and fell away, probably in pieces, over the years. Leaving this empty vine still connected to it’s (amazing and persistent) “mother root” and whatever it threw itself on to at the top. We’ve watched these things. It’s rather creepy, because you can see them sending out their feelers, moving in the air, seeking a host.

If that isn’t a metaphor for something that hollows you out, I can’t see a better one. Drugs and alcohol, for example: they start like a little vine nosing around your toes.At first they’re just amusing, or distracting, or they numb some pain, or blank out some nightmares. But as you go on using them, they get like that vine, growing with you, going where you go, influencing what you do.

After awhile, even though you may not even realize it, the drugs are calling the shots, and after that they are strangling the host tree….

If you’re smart, or lucky, or blessed or all of those — you cut off the vine before it chokes and destroys you. If you’re not, you look like a hollowed out person until you figure it out. Or the vine gets you.

So we need to be constantly pruning our lives, like we do the big trees around our yard. The habits you have formed and don’t think about, the crowd you party with, the things you reach for when you are stressed, the stuff you watch on TV, even. It all influences us in ways we may not even realize.

A vine senses an upright lifeform and snags on. Before you know it, it’s 20 feet up the tree. It’s only the size of you little finger, but it’s checking out the opportunity, and putting little suckers into the bark as it goes. When you see those vines sneaking around that long leaf pine, you cut them off, and pull the vine off the trunk as far as you can. Some of them are very pretty. They have flowers and smell nice, but you know what to do.

The vines never stop. I can see areas of the wild woods where they are actually holding up trees, and I am sure they are an integral part of bird and squirrel life. But for healthy trees, we need them gone.

And life is like that. Evil never stops. No matter how saved you are, satan never stops trying to turn you. Sometimes evil is pretty and smells nice. But if you keep the vines off, the trunk has a better chance of survival. And, to continue the metaphor, even taking long-established vines down helps a tree live longer. I have pictures of those, too.

If the roots aren’t pulled out completely, a tree can be knocked over and can grow on an angle, supported by vines that were already there. But the tree that was cut in half and supported by the mature vine around it, finally fell onto the ground. Sometimes standing trees look okay, but you see the woodpecker holes, so you know something else is going on you cannot see.Those might be a different metaphors.

We can look at survivors, too. Like some of us in those photos, who don’t look so hollow 30 years later. (Now we just look old!)

Watch for the vines, though. The ones that start around your feet and keep you coming back to something that isn’t good for your soul. Shake your feet and move away from them. Prune them back into the woods. Pull them out by the roots if you have to.

About Carol Joy Shannon

A former sailor of the seven seas, living in my beloved Lowcountry, between the blackwater swamps and the saltmarshes, surrounded by pre-revolutionary history.....thinking about current events....painting dinosaurs and other whimsical animals for children, with the occasional abstract or new cityscape for my delightful collectors. The best thing about being a seasoned old salt is sitting down not running around, so...
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