If you live anywhere in the South you know about Kudzu. It is a very invasive and destructive vine that can grow up to a foot a night covering everything in it’s path, smothering it all to death. It was brought to the US during World War II as a fast moving ground cover to prevent erosion over the farmland that sat idle during the war. The unintended consequence of this plan was that decades later we are still trying to get rid of it. It is hard to control. Hard to eradicate and just when you think you have gotten rid of it you see a vine crawling along the ground, and your battle begins all over again. This piece of paper was made from Kudzu leaves. It is strong, has a great texture and dyes very well. So with all the awful things kudzu does many artists have found ways to use it’s characteristics to their creative advantage.
I can only imagine the trail and error many people faced trying to find some redeeming quality in kudzu. As it overtook their land they had to do something to find a use for it, or it would win and wipe out everything in it’s path. It grows fast so it is very sustainable. It is pliable and strong so the vines make great baskets, wreaths and I’ve even seen table legs made out of the stuff. The ‘fruit’ can make nice jelly, and the leaves once ground up make a nice paper pulp. Hooray for the people who were frustrated enough and patient enough to find a use for this annoying vine.
Isn’t that true about so many awful things in life? We experience the unintended consequences of our decisions and have to work hard to find some good in the pain. We experience things that have the ability to smother the life out of us, and we face a choice. Do we let it kill us or do we find a way to take that characteristic, that experience, that horror and make something beautiful? It means getting over the anger and pain to be able to see the other side of the situation. It means turning something over and over until you can find some redeeming quality in what it brings to the table. It means giving up our preconceived ideas about good and evil and allowing creativity and necessity to guide us down a different path. It also means facing the reality that what we thought we knew doesn’t apply here so we have to let our intelligence, arrogance, knowledge and experience go to open the door to kudzu paper and jelly. Who would have thought that this nasty plant could yield such beautifully different products. It serves to remind us that there is something redeemable in everything if we just take the time and energy to figure it out.