Friday, May 29, 2009

Fight for the light... the fearsome foe, convolvulus

Image of a photograph of the leaves of an unidentified Morning glory. The leaves are likely from a Ipomoea purpurea. Camera and Exposure Details: Camera: Nikon Coolpix 8700 Lens: Nikon Zoom Nikkor ED 8.9-71.2mm 1:2.8-4.2 Exposure: 34.7mm (136.5mm in 35mm equivalent) f/4.3 @ 5/466 s. (50 ISO). Photo taken by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) on Saturday, August 26, 2006. Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons and used under Permission. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only as published by the Free Software Foundation.Dear Gentle Reader,

On Wednesday, I stumbled over to Dominic Rivron's e-allotment and found him talking about an old, bitter enemy of mine.


Lovely name.

Fearsome beast.

It has an instinctive intellect that only the unwise laugh off as vegetative.

This thing has only one thought.


And success, for convolvulus, means domination.

Convolvulus has one aim; to swallow the light in your life. This is a creature of nightmares.

I think I ought to warn you about convolvulus. So, today, a warning, some history, some myth, and a cautionary tale. Not necessarily in that order.

Gentle Reader, I take this foe seriously, and I think you should, too.

So, we'll go to the beginning to properly understand it.

In times of trouble, for most of the history of the Western world, men and women have looked to the learned ones, the literate ones, for help in understanding threats.

Then folks go to the powerful ones to protect them.

In the West, the literate ones, for most of our history, have been the priestly caste of the Christian faith.

Christians turn to one book for guidance, when all is dark.

"Fiat lux!", that book proclaims; right in the first chapter.

Right in the beginning those seekers found light.

Our genesis, metaphysically and physically, is a journey to light.

"Fiat lux" proclaims The Book.

Let there be light.

Of course, this is the short form.

It comes from "dixitque Deus fiat lux et facta est lux" (Gen. 1:3) in the vulgate Latin, or, "And God said let there be light, and there was light".

And that is what convolvulus is after...


We appear to be in conflict with convolvulus from the moment we are born.

From the dark floor of the forest, convolvulus rises and shoots up, like a snake, wanting to seize the light. And it stops at nothing to get it, to get that precious light.

Convolvulus lurks in forests and fields and gardens and ditches.

It lurks by trees and by shrubs, by stumps and by fences, by walls and by sheds.

Convolvulus lurks, hoping to snag unwary interlopers in its domain...

Coming across an interloper, convolvulus reaches out and embraces the outsider in a tight grip. But, mark my words, Gentle Reader, its embrace is not a loving grip.

Convolvulus will strangle, if it can, and march up the corpse, going ever higher, seeking light.


The name rolls and writhes around in the mouth.

And the soil.

Like a fearsome serpent.

Convolvulus roils and coils around fence posts and drainpipes and chairs and even Granddads who spend too long in the field, I am told.

In North America some jokester thought he (or she) would call this stuff Morning Glory.

Presumably because, as the morning is the glory of the day with the rising sun, so convolvulus greets the morning as the victor on the field of battle, having overwhelmed and strangled its competitors in its photosynthetic search for light and canopy dominance.

The English call convolvulus bindweed. Far more appropriate than morning glory.

I call it "Bloody Hell. Not again. I cleared that patch yesterday!" or "Aieeeeee".

Which brings me to the memory that Dominic's post unveiled.

And my warning tale.

This was a few years ago.

In my less astute days.

Your Hero, Pommes, still roamed the fields looking for hapless birds and mice and deer and bear to devour.

Your Heroine was desirous of a garden, despite the close proximity of lovely farmer's markets.

"How wonderful if we could grow our own food..." she exclaimed one day.

And passed your humble scribe the shovel.

After seeking permission from the landlord, approval was received to convert sod and turf to a small garden.

Your humble scribe ventured into the Canadian wilderness of Vancouver and proceeded to cleave the sod into strips and roll it up and off the underlying soil.

Your humble scribe had also rented a roto-tiller, which is a mechanised, dual-purpose, soil and body breaker.

By the end of the morning I had lost the capacity for sensation in my upper torso.

Then, I regained sensation through the wonders of bursitis.

With the garden-to-be only half churned over, but my joints fully churned, help was needed.

I called my Dad.

He heard my plea and came and finished the remainder of the garden-to-be.

Now, to be fair on your Heroine, she had already helped me clear the morning glory from the back of the garage, the fence, the trees, the side of the house, the grass, and the two shovels, the stump, the bits of a bike, and other odds and sods that we hadn't known were there, lost in the blackness under the foliage of the convolvulus.

Morning glory, or convolvulus, is tough.

But, we were tougher.

We ripped this stuff out by the roots.

Its high-pitched keening wail was above our auditory threshold, but the Hero, a younger Pommes, clearly heard it.

Pommes was all over the stuff, racing through the dark passageways not yet cleared and engaged in mortal kitten combat with the writhing tendrils.

The turf was too tough to break through, but we ripped what we could out of the ground.

We did not know then what we discovered later...

Dominic Rivron, in his response to a comment on his site, called convolvulus hydra-rooted rather than hydra-headed.

This is because, like the Lernaean Hydra of Greek myth, for each head Heracles sliced off, two more heads would appear.

Dominic refers to the fact that as the roots of convolvulus are sliced off, new roots, and, worse, new vegetative bodies appear.

With respect, Dominic, I also think that there is more than a touch of the Gorgon, that breed that numbered the mortal Medusa in its ranks, within convolvulus.

Besides the fearsome, violent nature of the Gorgons, which Gorgons share with convolvulus, I recall that each spilled drop of Gorgon blood that fell to the earth, myth tells us, transformed into a snake.

Back to our field and the rototiller...

Each drop of convolvulus/morning glory root and stalk, left behind after our clearing and bagging of the bodies, was ground into ichor, pulp, paste, and shards by the harsh actions of the rototiller.

And for three days the blood of the downed convolvulus churned in the soil.

For three days your humble scribe laboured to add nutrients and peat and loam and natural fertilizers and air and love into that clay, to make it soil and ripe for growth.

And all that time, the soil roiled with the convulsions of thousands and thousands of vegetative snakes.

Each drop of morning glory blood seized upon that soil's goodness, goodness that we had worked into that soil. Those drops became green tendrils that transmuted our efforts and additions into their growing, snake-like, convolvulus bodies.

Then, one morning, we looked out the window.

It was as if Jack had strewn magic beans, beans picked from the fields of Chernobyl, in our back yard.

A legion of green warriors had sprung up, brandishing their bugles.

Image of a photograph of the side of an unidentified partially curled up Morning glory in the early afternoon. The flower is likely from a Ipomoea purpurea. Camera and Exposure Details: Camera: Nikon D50 Lens: Nikon Nikkor ED AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G Exposure: 52mm (78mm in 35mm equivalent) f/6.3 @ 1/100 s. Photo taken by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) on Saturday, August 26, 2006. Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons and used under Permission. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only as published by the Free Software Foundation.

I had not intentionally sown dragon's teeth, but the rototiller had torn up the roots that remained... and now you know the result.

Further, unlike Jason, as recounted to us by Appollonius of Rhodes in his Argonauticus, I was not successful at turning these green fiends upon each other.

Jason, myth tells us, flung a stone into the ranks of warriors, grown overnight from sown dragon's teeth. That stone hit the warriors and they quarrelled, fell into disarray, and fought, to the death, amongst and with each other.

But, these vegetative serpents of the earth in our garden had not enough mind to stop and argue.

The stone I cast fell in their midst. But, the legions of convolvulus used it merely to reach higher, and higher, and higher in their quest for light.

We fought them for a week.

We lost.

After a week we gave up and watched the inexorable progress of the Green Man's legions across the lawn. And the house.

The garden-to-be never was, for us.

We eventually had to flee.

First Europe, now Hong Kong.

You do the math...

And be very, very wary of that fearsome foe, convolvulus.

There is no glory in this story.

Morning glory leads only to darkness and woe.

Take care.


Image of a picture of a blue and purple Morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea). Camera and Exposure Details: Nikon Coolpix 8700 Lens: Nikon Zoom Nikkor ED 8.9-71.2mm 1:2.8-4.2 Exposure: 71.2mm (280mm in 35mm equivalent) f/4.2 @ 5/562 s. (50 ISO). Photo taken by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) on Saturday, August 26, 2006. Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons and used under Permission. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only as published by the Free Software Foundation.


Teresa said...

And since you had to flee so far, can one assume that the convolvulus climbed up the cottage and eventually tore the place down with its creeping tendrils and Gorgonlike roots, or did its snaky Medusa-like off-shoots turn the postman to stone one morning, and you knew that if you remained there you would be next...? Did it find you in Europe and force your flight to Hong Kong? Are the monster roots tearing apart the earth even as we type? Thanks for the warning, Chris. Can I borrow a couple of million dollars for a trip to the space station?

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

I have some lovely lira, somewhere...

And, seriously, yes. They are. I think I would like to take on the mantle of the Brothers Grimm, the descendant.


Richard said...

So beautiful though... I've had them level fences. I've seen them employed as cross-border terrorists from my neighbor's yard. I've had friends eat their seeds hoping for an "experience," and get nothing but nausea as their reward. We rip, tear, and pull whenever the smallest flower is spotted. But, I like seeing them across the way.

BTW: I take it Pommes has been released. If not, the flood gates will open...

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Richard,

Yes, for all their faults, they are beautiful. Which is why they fit in so well after a week yowsing on about my alley off my street.

I've always thought that, given a great containment system, they would be a lovely addition to a garden. The problem is their understanding of demesne.

I say container.

They say multiverse, and not in the Gilbert and Sullivan sense.

As per Pommes, still waiting on the report from the taxidermist...

Although I am feeling mellower now that I recall his Heroic efforts against the convolvulus...

Maybe it is time to resuscitate his memory, and the Hero himself.

Joseph Campbell would want it that way, non?


Dominic Rivron said...

Pleased to be of inspiration. The only cure, it seems is all-out chemical attack with the strongest safe-for-cats-etc weedkiller you can legally use - and I only say that because it's the only approach I've yet to see fail!

Sepiru Chris said...


You were the inspiration for this post.

Although I should add that Junosmom had mentioned planting and weeding recently. And Teresa posted a very engaging tale of snakes and love in Taiwan. So, there was a constellation of ideas that booted this memory, tale, and mental flotsam out of my skull and onto the e-tablet.

Now, a caveat. This piece is designed to be read by somebody who does not know, a priori, what convolvulus is.

Hopefully the piece is still vaguely engaging when that bit of mystery is not a mystery.

Not so sure, actually.

I'll likely have to re-read and consider that point.

But, my point in the beginning was to pay a bit of homage to you and your creativity in general. I woke up just the other night having had a conversation with the ghost of snowman whom you have had prior acquaintance with...


Teresa said...

Even though the dollar may be going the way of the lira, I think it is still worth a slight bit more, so I guess I will beg my relatives for greenbacks for my birthday. Hopefully, I will be able to amass enough before the earth disintegrates beneath our feet.

I think you would make a very nice "grim brother", not sure why you need to descend if the earth is crumbling, but I guess it's best to be out of a top floor on a sky scraper before the foundation caves in...

Richard said...

If Frank Herbert could willy nilly resurrect his characters on Dune, surely you could bring Pommes back from where ever he's been exiled. I'm thinking that if word leaks out that Pommes in not among the quick you will be faced with grave (no pun intended) consequences.

PS: different subject. Here's what my wife and I are producing this summer: Teahouse Concerts

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I so love the way you write, Sepiru Chris!

I wonder if there is a deep philosophical message in the Convolvulus? Maybe a sort of mega 'If at first you don't succeed, try and try again'?

murat11 said...

Chris: I love how any and all things are fair game for comment and foment in Neo-Sumeria. That lurking purple bloom just peeking through in the first photo is hilariously diabolical, given your ensuing screed, downright Looney Tunes.

Convolvulus and bindweed certainly impart the game far better than our Tres Leches morning glory. Of course, I have mistakenly gloried in its blooms, but then I was never much of a gardener.

I spent many of my adolescent summers "shredding" (technical term: bush-hogging) 400-acre pastures of sunflowers on my grandparents' ranch. Then, they were scratchy and slimy impediments to my summer fun; now, they are glorious harbingers to all that is right with the world, a world which do, oft, come round.

Good fun, this was, O scribe.

Cloudia said...

"How wonderful if we could grow our own food..." she exclaimed one day.

And passed your humble scribe the shovel." LOL!

And your google-ad is for....Morning glory SEEDS!!!!!!!!!!!!AAAEEEEEE!!!!

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

You think the dollar is going the way of th lira, do you? To the euro, you mean?

Does that mean that nudity will finally be acceptable on television while violence will fade away?

I've always had a yen for the euro. A few, really...


I hope the day was filled with light.

Dear Richard,

Yikes. I'll look for an appropriate bell jar and bellows mechanism. You have the relevant spice?

While I don't know what the mixture, the melange, is, precisely, I hear one can find it in Haiti. (That was what Wade Davis said, no?)

On a totally different note. I really want to be in Cascadia in August, now.

We, sadly, have weddings that collide, time wise.

Time to stir up foment between couples to free up calendar space for garden parties.

Extend my best to the promoterin, bitte.

Dear Raph,

Why thank you so very, very much, Raph.

That is a very kind thing to say and my countenance is going red.

I feel Finnish. Or Marxist. Or a hot flutter on my cheeks.

Your suggestion could be the message... But, if we are in conflict for light, from the outset, with convolvulus, the message could be much darker.

Like "Dare to kill".

Convolvulus serpents are Hobbesian beasties, by which, of course, I am referring to Thomas (1588-1679) and not to the passive aggressive companion of Calvin, the perennial six year old (syndicated from 1985-1995). I expect convolvulusian messages to be similarly dark...

Dear Murat,

Growing up in Canada, I always loved the Tuney Loons.

It only stands to reason that, with a little bit of global mixing, that I would end up loving/living Loony Tunes.

And I am pleased that you sensed the import of that purple lurker.

Did you know that Audrey II is a related beastie... it stands to reason, non? Digest that, if you can (Audrey II could).

And, I now know what you mean by slimy messes with regard to sunflowers.

We used to cycle by fields of bobble-headed, heliophillic sunflowers, in France and Switzerland, and they were glorious.

Glorious, that is, until they would be touched by the spell of the vegetative necromancer who would steel their colour and gift them with the properties of a sessile, grey, zombie slug.

Also, Regina too (unlike Regina II, her vegetative stand in, like Audrey II for Seymour), mistakenly, loved morning glory for its trumpets. Until she learned the import of their thunder.

Dear Cloudia,

Sad commentary, non? Start sending protest letter now, mon ami.

And morning glory seeds on the ad browser?

They must have been taking e-lessons from the scientologists.

If they are in the e-world, we are all doomed.


Teresa said...


I was thinking that the dollar may be going the way of the lira in terms of becoming an extinct currency. I believe China is fomenting to have an entirely new WORLD currency to replace its increasingly worthless dollar reserves. I do not expect the US to be retaken by its former European colonizers. No, I am thinking it's a good thing I will be able to communicate with our new Chinese overlords, although I may need to add a little Arabic to the mix just in case the Saudis buy us out first.

If China wins, nudity will never be in on television, and the choice will be violence a la kung fu genre or inane sitcoms and variety shows with lots of propaganda thrown in for good measure. Not a happy prospect.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. I have to say that we are experiencing June gloom here in southern California and your wit was the brightest light all day yesterday... I did have a relaxing birthday; it was quite nice.

I agree with you that if google is advertising morning glory seeds, the apocalypse may be coming right about NOW!


Heidelweiss said...

I'm making a movement to have all references to Satan in the Bible changed from "the serpent" to "convolvulus". It has a much more sinister sound to it (especially if you've fought (and lost) a battle with it).

I have fought it all of my married life (that's the only part of my life I've dealt with a garden. Steve is not sucking the light from my life or suffocating me).

Some friends of ours were putting a pool in their back yard. 6 feet down they found roots of morning sodding glory. When I found that out, I gave up the fight. What's the point, really?

Also, we have it growing up through the pipes and drains of our unfinished basement. It's like a jungle down there. I shudder to think what the pipes look like inside :}.

In short (nope), I fear it as much as you. It is the Devil himself, in plant form.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

Yes, I see where you are coming from. You are not a fan of Japanese-inspired game shows? Nor North Korean-inspired propaganda?

I'm glad that you had a relaxing birthday.

Dear Heidelweiss,

You may be onto something there.

When I talked of the legions of the Green Man I was thinking of the Green Man that one sees carved into lintels, capitals, tympana, portals, modillions, and other architectural elements of medieval, romanesque, and gothic cathedrals.

The Green Man, as a pre-Christian deity or representation of vegetative vitality, especially important in agrarian societies, was incorporated into Christian iconography but his antecedents are unknown.

The Celtic god Viridios, literally "the Green Man", is one contender from the British Isles, yet the importance of vegetative fecundity has led to an almost omnipresence of the Green Man throughout cultures and times.

The Akkadians had Tammuzi, who, after geographical, linguistic, and cultural peregrinations came back to the Akkadians as Dumuzi, a god of vegetative harvests.

We have come close to encountering Dumuzi before, in this blog. Dumuzi is the consort of Inanna/Ishtar of Akkadian/Sumerian myths.

Dumuzi's most well known tale was being sent to Irkalla, the Sumerian land of the Dead from which he returns each year for six months, as do the crops.

Possibly the convolvulus is a passive manifestation of Dumuzi and is using your pipes as passage to Irkalla.

Or, if the actions of convoluvulus are more malign, then perhaps you are right.

I shall consult my Milton and my Dante for appropriate references...


Teresa said...

No, I can't say that I am a fan of those shows, and even less of CCCTV, which has bought up massive quantities of Chinese language air time all over the globe in an effort to propagandize the earth that the new Chinese overlords will be benign. They have done away with all the decent Chinese language sitcoms in favor of inanity. Fortunately, I'd rather read. It has sent my husband to web tv.

We do not get much in the way of North Korean tv over here, only nuclear threats... perhaps the "dear leader" is an off-shoot of convolvulus. I do not know. You might find him in Dante. In what level of hell was Nero? I expect the "dear leader" might have a slot with his name there.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

I cannot actually comment on the Inferno as my lovely annotated copy has gone missing.

But, from memory, I don't think that Nero shows up anywhere.

The closest we get to Nero, in the Inferno, I believe, is his magician, Simon Magus, from whom the word 'simony' is derived after his (Simon's) attempt to buy the secrets of the laying on of hands from the apostles Peter and John.

Simon Magus is located in Maleboge, the eighth level of hell, and the description of him is what we read when starting off Canto 19.

I think.

My copy has gone walkabout; I need to find a new annotated edition.

I actually enjoy CCCTV. It is a great way for an English-speaker to get a handle on what China's official position is, or is likely to be, in a broad-brush approach to individual news items, and hence, by inference, to public policy issues.

And you have no idea what you are missing in North Korean TV...

Kim does not show up in the Inferno because he is a behind the scenes guy, there. He is the programming director.


Teresa said...

Dear Chris,

My copy of Dante has NOT gone walkabout, and I dusted it off today. I've spent too many years away from it; the last time I read it, I was so very, very much younger than I am now and still in high school. You do have it almost memorized, don't you? I guess that is the difference between US public schools and the Canadian variety. I did not read Dante for school at any level of education; I just read it for fun, under the bedcovers late at night. It seems that you may have actually been taught something in school and thus remember quite a bit.

You are correct in your citations, and I (blushing furiously) was wrong. It was not Nero in the with the violent, it was Alexander (maybe the Great and maybe not) or Attila the Hun. I think that Alexander may be a better companion for Kim than Attila. So we can send him there when he goes the way of all humanity...

Best Regards,

Sepiru Chris said...


I hate to burst bubbles, but I too read Dante purely for fun, and never for any literature course or English course.

I suspect that I had a fairly stellar education, to praise my teachers, but it was mostly focused on science...

What I took away from that, though, was the necessity to understand things from first principles.

So, for Western literature, for example, one needs to understand the Greek myths, the Roman poets, playwrights, and essayists, the Bible, Milton, Dante, and Shakespeare. Once you have those, up until modernism and post-modernism, the references are all understood.

I love history for the same reason.

And, Teresa, I am thrilled that you picked up your copy of the Inferno.


Teresa said...


Yes, well, I was educated in the late 1960s and 1970s when the American education system was throwing away the "first things" in favor of "what feels good." I graduated from high school having only to read MacBeth by Shakespeare. My dad had a fairly extensive library of classics, and I read what I could get my hands on. I thought Georgetown University would give me a good grounding... guess again. Then I went to Taiwan and began living Chinese. So I find I have much catching up to do. It was a pleasure to pull out the entire portable Dante and read through it again. I understand so much more of it after 33 years of human experience.

In the spirit of making up what I missed in my education, I have several reading lines to prepare for writing my thesis. One of them is on religions, as I know a lot about Christianity but not much about eastern religions. My professor is sending me back to the basics (her phd is in Buddhism and she is very old school). I found a passage in Eliade's "Shamanism" that reminded me of you and your 3WW. It's about the cultural contribution of shamanistic ecstasy: "It is likewise probable that the pre-ecstatic euphoria constituted one of the universal sources of lyric poetry. . . .Poetic creation still remains an act of perfect spiritual freedom. Poetry remakes and prolongs language; every poetic language begins by being a secret langage, that is, the creation of a personal universe, of a completely closed world. The purest poetic act seems to re-create language from an inner experience that, like ecstasy or the religious inspiration of the "primitives," reveals the essence of things." (p. 510)

When you said that you cross your eyes and let your brain slide into a different space, I thought you might just be using shamanistic techniques when you slip into your Haikuist persona. Interesting thought...

I enjoy the intellectual challenge of your blog. Even though it takes a lot of back-filling sometimes to make up for years of not living white (or intellectual). Thanks for writing.