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…[w]hen I was working on the essay about the swamp as refuge, I stumbled on the fact that a typical wetland plant called the pitcher plant appears to act as a safe haven for insects.
“I found somethin’ awesome, y’all!” my mother yelled in her false Southern accent from across the back yard. I was nine years old and had already grown weary of what would, following her diagnosis as a manic depressive, be called her “high” days. These periods of jubilation and productivity were exhausting and often disappointing. The most minor of findings—an exceptionally fluffy cloud or an unexpected spring shower would fill my mother with overwhelming joy, so much so that she would often break me and my little brothers away from whatever we were doing at the moment—homework, housework, even sleep—to revel in the experience with her. Because of this, my brothers and I learned to feign surprise and amazement from a very young age, hardening us into tiny cynics. As with most children, we wanted to keep our parents happy. It was quite the task with a mother of extreme moods. We knew that just as quickly as she shed tears of joy over a rain shower, her tears could also turn to ones of rage over the water that was now flooding her freshly planted herb garden. On this particular day, she had disappeared into the woods behind our house for quite some time before returning to notify us of her new, life-changing finding. “Put on yer playclothes and let’s go for a walk.” As a self-professed nature hater, I threw a brief fit over the thought of wandering through the snakeinfested woods on a summer afternoon in south Alabama. I gave my mom my best pouty face, in hopes that she would leave me behind, but she just said “Poke that lip back or a little birdie gonna poo poo on it.” I realized that I

couldn’t get out of this, so I shuffled into the house and put on a ratty shirt and my Mickey Mouse bike shorts. We set off, my mother confidently leading the

way, followed by my seven-year-old twin brothers, shoving each other along, and I rounded out the train—the shuffling, pouty caboose. After what felt like hours of walking down poorly cut trails (Were they even trails?), across a footbridge consisting of a single rotting wood plank placed across a creek, and wandering through an inexplicable red clay dirt pit in the middle of the forest, we came upon a wet, marshy area. Mosquitoes and gnats swarmed us, the gnats being inhaled with each breath. The only thing thicker than the gnat swarm was the humidity. The moisture could be seen in the air, a hazy fog of heat and wet. Even though this place was downright inhospitable, my mother still seemed overjoyed with what was (hopefully) soon to come. “Only a little bit longer” she assured. We fought our way through a thick line of marsh trees, water filling my sneakers with each step. My brothers only wore rain boots at this point in their lives, so they were spared this added obstacle. As for my mom, she removed her flip flops early-on, insisting it was much easier to hike with bare feet. Once we made it to the other side of the trees, I was genuinely awestruck. On the other side of those trees was a vast marsh covered with thousands of pitcher plants. The tree line squared off the marsh, as if someone had intentionally created this garden of carnivores. For the first time in quite a while my mother did not disappoint. “I brought y’all here to do me a favor” she stated. “I’m gonna make a pitcher plant sanctuary at the house and y’all need to pull up as many of these as you can carry” Of course we couldn’t just revel in amazement at the beauty of nature, We had to destroy part of it to keep my mother from getting “low.” Needless to say, we removed as many as we could carry and headed home. The walk back felt even longer, our bodies exhausted from walking and destroying part of an untainted ecosystem. On the walk back, my mother described how she was going to recreate the marsh in her greenhouse. She considered making a

business of selling the plants. “Folks love those venus fly traps, so why tha hell wouldn’t they like pitcher plants?” We arrived home at dusk and were instructed to dump all of the plants in the basin adjacent to the greenhouse. Tomorrow we would begin the planting process. We had sandwiches for dinner and went to bed early. During the night, my mother slept off her high and entered a low state. She spent the next day closed off in her art studio (the back porch) and hardly spoke to us. Two weeks later, the pitcher plants were still in the basin, rotting, more victims of my mother’s disease.

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