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