On GoldenRod, Redux

First published September 25, 2019 as On GoldenRod, With Apologies, I wanted to bring it back for a rerun. Hope you enjoy it.

Photo credit: Beth Kanell

For the past twelve years, from mid August to mid-September, I have conscientiously and diligently pulled out, by the roots, the many varieties of goldenrod from where they grew along the edges of my woods. This is not a small job: I have 30 acres here in Vermont. Fortunately no tromping into the interior was needed. Only a pair of garden gloves and a long sleeved shirt. Getting in my back stretches first, helped.

Here is a shot of this year’s goldenrod still blooming along the edge of our woods. See how it stands out, even now a week or two after its peak.

Why was I doing this you ask appropriately. I pulled it out in honor of my son David who suffers from what his pediatricians called “allergy induced asthma” each spring and fall. By tearing out the goldenrod by the roots each year, I was effectively killing it off. Eventually, I figured, Dave would be able to visit in the fall. This was my belief.  I never doubted that my actions would produce the result I wanted: an allergy-free visit from Dave.

What a waste of good energy!

However, this is not a post about visiting sons (and grandchildren), nor is it a post about living on our Vermont farm, though they’d both be fun to write about.

No. This is a post about beliefs and how we grab hold of them and hang on tight without ever exploring why.  I mean, really, who has the time? Here are four that come quickly to mind:

  • Eliminate fat from your diet; not sugar. Remember that one from the late 1960s? Eggs were to be avoided at all costs too.
  • Socialism is a scourge and we must stop it before it reaches our shore. I seem to be hearing this one more often since Bernie took to the national campaign trail. My inner political scientist wants to educate; maybe another time.
  • Vaccines are not safe and should be avoided. Oh my; where to start on this one!
  • And goldenrod is an allergen that must be eradicated. Guilt by association.

These examples are the ones that come most readily to my mind as I type this up. Your list might be quite different and just as valid.

What I’m interested in here is how rarely we stop to question our beliefs: objectively, curiously, courageously. We get attached to them, identified by them. And on we march, living our lives by them.

To lose that belief is to lose our sense of who we are.

Fortunately, I was not terribly attached to my goldenrod-as-culprit dogma. In fact, learning I no longer had to pull it out was quite a relief.

As I mentioned at the start of this little essay, I’ve been yanking out my goldenrod by the roots since we moved in up here in 2007. I was a believer in the badness of this bright yellow wildflower. Our landscaper told me it’d be a good idea to pull it all out and, city girl that I was, I went with it. Then a carpenter here to do some work convinced me I might be misinformed. So I googled it, to find out.

Goldenrod, it turns out, is far too heavy a pollen to get enough lift to land in our noses. Goldenrod needs pollinators to move its pollen around. Ragweed pollen, on the other hand, is the real culprit; its pollen flies around until it lands, sometimes on a flower, sometimes in a nose. And they often grow right next to each other.

Goldenrod, also known as solidago — a genus of about 100 to 120 species in the aster family — has suffered the classic guilt-by-association fate. It also gets the blame because it is much more vibrant in color and more noticeable. It’s what we see, easy to identify.

Now if only I could explain the upsides of socialism, vaccinations, and animal fat with a simple side by side photo.

How about you? What are your beliefs based on?

12 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    My husband has long believed he is allergic to goldenrod, but your post gives me pause. Maybe the culprit is really ragweed. Mmmmm

    Don’t get me started on the vaccine. Why, oh why, do some people have an aversion to getting the shots? The excuses I hear seem so flimsy.

    On another note: Today I’m writing about housing and property, and I have a link about your former house on Chincoteague Island. Remember that!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Housing Highs and the Hans Longenecker HouseMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian. You must still get the notifications from Jet Pack. I actually didn’t realize this was going live; I thought I’d set it for next week. That’s one of the downsides of not blogging weekly any longer. I just lose track of what I’ve done.

      You ask the question that I think we the vaccinated need to actually ask. “What led you to make this decision to not get vaccinated?” Or something the that effect. The social psych research is pretty clear that most of us do what we believe most of us are doing. (I know; we all think we are so independent). So perhaps if more of the non-vaccinated interacted with the vaccinated and we talked to one another . . . But that’s a conversation for another time.

      As for Cliff and his goldenrod, I’m so glad you mentioned that. Maybe if he crawled through a batch of it on his hands and knees it would be the culprit. Other than that, goldenrod pollen is just too heavy to get up as high as a nostril.

      Thanks for Commenting. I believe the little escapee would still be undercover until next week. You know I’ve taken a much needed break from blogging regularly, and that has included reading blogs too. I’ve never gotten comfortable with the quid pro quo aspect of blogging. But thanks for the heads up. I’ll check it out
      Janet Givens recently posted…On GoldenRod, ReduxMy Profile

  2. Gulzhahan
    | Reply

    “Socialism is a scourge and we must stop it before it reaches our shore.” I am thinking of this statement. We were brought up vice versa, that capitalism is a dangerous thing where people sell everything they have. There is no understanding about mercy, friendship, kindness in it.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Gulzhahan. It’s really great that you shared this. Thank you. It’s always interesting to me when we compare our two countries. (For those who haven’t read my memoir, Gulzhahan was my peace corps counterpart in Kazakhstan). There is a certain truth to what you were taught: capitalism is focused on “the bottom line,” and as a result the workers are seen as tools. When this became a big problem on the 1930s, labor unions emerged to help protect the worker. Since the 1980s though, labor unions have been losing power. The corporations pretty much run our country now. And the average citizen here seems ok with that. Until someone in their family loses their job.
      Janet Givens recently posted…On GoldenRod, ReduxMy Profile

  3. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    When I was a kid I thought I had a cold every summer—I had horses (hay). As an adult living in England in the militaryI was sick with allergies all the time. Test were done and I was allergic to all grasses,cedar, cypress and oak, birds, dogs, cats. When they did the test on my back i could actually feel it rise up and the Dr said it was like I had a second back bone. I took steroids for years(great for the weight) inhalers, pills. Work put in a high powered air cleaner and finally I went for shots. A couple years of shots and I was better but not cured. I don’t have to take steroids anymore thankfully ( although I miss them cause nothing hurts when you take steroids). Turkey was the best for me—not much grass—lived there 2 yrs at a time 3 different times and in Germany after the last time in Turkey I had test again and low and behold I was allergic to olive trees.

    • Janet
      | Reply

      I can’t imagine living like that. Stuffy, sneezy, itchy all the time or else stoned from the meds they give. I sympathize totally, Susan.

      • Susan Jackson
        | Reply

        And my eyelids felt like they had sand/rocks in them—it was pretty miserable

  4. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    LOL. It is amazing how things we believed most of our life, can prove to be incorrect. I guess we should always question everything.

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Hey Darlene.
      Have you seen Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World? In it he talks about maintaining a healthy skepticism. I guess that’s what I’m after. Doesn’t the idea of questioning everything feel exhausting? Brushing my teeth may not be that important after all? Nah. Thanks for adding your voice here. You got it.

  5. Bette A Stevens
    | Reply

    Lots of allergies and allergic reactions in our family. Hubby Dan is allergic to feathers… It took us years to figure that one out!

    • Janet
      | Reply

      They say the First World (ie developed nations) are replete with allergies, unlike the Third World. I’ve read it’s because we sterilize too much. We could all use a bit more dirt in our diet. 🙂 ah, a new blog post is born.

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