Ivy

ivy


Providence is full of Ivy. Brown University is Ivy League, after all, and there’s English ivy (Hedera helix) growing all over the place. When I first came out here, a friend plucked some ivy leaves off the wall and mailed them to her family and friends in the Western United States, to underline the reality of where she was.

Ivy wants to go up, away from the ground, against gravity. There’s a building near our apartment building, with two ivy tendrils sprouting off the same low branch, curling up the wall like arms outspread. And up up up they go!

I always think of my mother when I see ivy. When my father built our new house in the early 1960s, my mother decided that she liked ivy, and planted shoots of it all along the north side of the house, and on the roadside.

Those shoots were stubborn. They didn’t die, but they didn’t grow. A few leaves stuck out of the ground, year after year. And then, after five years or so –

They exploded.

The entire north side of the house was engulfed with ivy. And do you know what ivy does to the side of a house, especially one with wooden shingles? It chews it up, om nom nom. If you try to pull the ivy down, you rip away half of the wooden shingles at the same time, and you reveal the dark mottling that the ivy has produced on its way up the wall.

Mom got her wish, and how! She wasn’t happy that her plan had gone beyond expectations, but it was beautiful, after all. She managed to get most of it off the shingles, and she repainted, but she couldn’t get the ivy off the brickwork. This picture, taken in May 1971, shows the ivy covering the exposed brickwork:

Moms house

It looks nice, doesn’t it? Nice rhododendrons in front of the house, and a nice ivy-covered chimney.

But Mom was watching that ivy every moment, to make sure it didn’t leap onto the wooden shingles again.

Ivy is aggressive.

And now, a song:


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