Green on the rough,
Skin on the bone.
You made your world
And draped your place in it.
They called you parasite,
But you seized this life
Sized it to a space you encompass –
Don’t we all dream the same?
Now, lovers’ breath beneath
And entropy above: life doesn’t thrive
I’ve seen trees before. I grew up around trees and even had what I would call good relationships with many of them. Call it the famed Midwestern friendliness.
But my ideas about trees were not prepared for Texas1. There are live oaks. There are palm trees (not native; they have a fatal tendency towards lightning and drought). Cypress trees lurk in the creeks, and pines cluster in isolated pockets. There is Spanish moss and prickly pear2.
Yet even in the midst of all this wonder, there is still room for surprise. Every now and then, I look up and see a bright green plant orb floating in bare tree branches.
My initial assumption was that this might be a different species of Spanish moss, or perhaps a very minimalist squirrel nest. I was wrong. It took a person – not a tree3 – to set me straight: the mysterious green ball was mistletoe.
Mistletoe! That staple of Victorian Christmases and holiday romantic comedies. I had assumed one bought it, fully formed and conveniently fake4, and hung it strategically in the most awkward location your home afforded.
Instead, I now know the truth. This herbaceous matchmaker is a true opportunist. It is poised to aggressively expand into niches beyond the Yuletide season. Without due precaution, we may soon find ourselves in a seriously complicated romantic situation of unprecedented magnitude – the kind requiring diagrams and flowcharts to solve. These types of situations are currently only allowable during the holiday conglomerate between November and New Years, and again at Spring Break. Aided and abetted by squirrels and birds, the mistletoe is preparing to wreak this kind of chaos during the rest of the year, when we’re committed to acting like somber respectable citizens.
Preparation is the best defense. A botanical identification guide and a tendency to look up are your best options. If that fails, climb.
1According to most people, most things aren’t prepared for Texas.
2Not trees. But still exotic. Then again, if it’s not poison ivy, I probably count it as exotic.
3You didn’t see that plot twist coming, did you?
4To save your pets and small children from the berries.