The trumpet vine in our backyard is blooming. I forget it’s even there, hanging from the mostly but not quite dead yet redbud tree, until it sprays out a profusion of maroon flowers with yellow throats. And every time I see it I’m tempted to pick one of those flowers and pull it apart to see what’s inside. It goes back to my childhood discovery of honeysuckle. Okay, technically I didn’t discover honeysuckle since it had been around, well, at least a couple of millennia before I arrived on the scene. And technically it was my friend Tim who showed me what to do with a honeysuckle flower. He took one and gently pulled the green base away from the flower itself. As the stamens passed through the opening a single glowing drop appeared. I touched it to my tongue and there was a rush of sweetness. We then spent a couple of hours destroying every honeysuckle plant in the neighborhood. Our mothers probably weren’t impressed and told us we’d get sick from sucking honeysuckle, but that just added to the thrill. We were sucking on the wild side, a phrase which, now that I’m an adult, sounds so much more interesting than what we were actually doing. I wanted to take it even further and dreamed of accumulating enough nectar to fill a glass so I could actually drink it rather than just licking that one tiny drop which, if you’ve ever sucked honeysuckle, will seem hilariously ambitions because a single flower produces a drop the size of a pinhead, assuming it’s not dry, and some of them were which just pushed me even harder on to the next one. Now of course I know it would have been easier to fill a glass with water and dump in a few heaping spoonsful of sugar for the same effect and if I was going to do that I might as well get a bottle of Coke and drink that. But pulling out that tiny globule and placing it on my tongue was like a magic trick. We were feasting on nature’s bounty, and besides our parents didn’t buy Coke all that often and we lived in the suburbs, well out of walking distance from the nearest soda shop. And soda shops were already a thing of the past, probably because kids had all moved to the suburbs.
Anyway I wondered why no one had bothered to bottle and sell the stuff because I was young and naive and didn’t really grasp the logistics of mass marketing, but I thought of us as part of a back-to-nature movement. We were harvesting artisanal sugar straight from the source, or at least a source, and before the bees even got to it. Not that the bees ever seemed to mind. They don’t show a lot of interest in honeysuckle, maybe because they knew it was an invasive weed that destroys all other plants around it. There’s a scientific term for a plant that does that: psychopathic monster vegetable. Tim and I were actually performing a public service by destroying honeysuckle blossoms before they went to seed and I’d really like to get the stuff out of our yard.
That same summer I was obsessed with honeysuckle I saw trumpet vine for the first time too, but from a distance and it was behind a fence where I couldn’t get to it. Some kid told me it was wild honeysuckle and I saw it as a potential solution to my supply problem. I was also gullible enough to not realize that honeysuckle isn’t domesticated anyway. Being several times bigger I thought this wild honeysuckle must hold more nectar. Now that I can get near it I know that’s not the case and that it’s not even related to honeysuckle but I’ve tried anyway. I only needed to try it once. I’ll leave the rest for the bees.