Saving The Rue

As I listened to the wind-down of the Presidential inaugural coverage — shirt-tailed with a dire weather forecast for the rest of the week, highs well below freezing, nasty wind chill — I realized I didn’t have the rue in the ground yet. Dammit.

Back in 2009 the people of Virginia, including a large rural demographic in the South of the state whom I half-suspect eat their own dead and hunt non-locals for sport, elected a hard-right governor and attorney general who proceeded to pursue, in no particular order: state affirmed gay bashing, harassment of climate-change researchers, and the hounding of women’s clinics out of existence. Oh yeah, and abolishing the gas tax. Because we SO need to get people buying more fossil fuels. As Aleister Crowley said long ago of Thelemic disciples Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard (back before Hubbard founded his own religion), “I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.”

There is only so much one can do, other than back better candidates and wield one’s vote, but in the matter of women’s abortion rights I felt moved to some sort of symbolic declaration and bought a seedling of rue.

Ophelia declaims upon rue in her crazy scene. “There’s rue for you; and here’s some for me. We may call it herb of grace a Sunday’s.” More than one critic has pointed out that Shakespeare, not a man to use words carelessly, was implying that Ophelia was up the duff, since rue is nature’s RU-486 (I’ve often wondered about the provenance of those initial letters in the alternate name for mifepristone) — not just a “toxin” as some writers suggest, but a progesterone blocker. No progesterone, no stable endometrium, no pregnancy. Remember how witches, when they were burnt, hanged, ducked and all the rest of it, were typically taxed with having “caused miscarriages” (as if they hadn’t, most likely, been asked to do so)?

I decided a nice stand of rue would make a statement. Mine came with a tag admonishing me not to handle it, especially if I were going to be in strong sunlight. Not surprising; progesterone is very close in the steroidogenesis column to the corticosteroids that inhibit sensitivity and inflammation. You would figure a smear of oil of rue might precipitate a good welt or two of urticaria.

So when the County people arrived with cement mixers and backhoes and jackhammers to fragment my curb strip, sidewalk, and nearby parts of the yard, including the bed where the rue was planted, I wore gloves to take up the by now woody and luxurious plant and pot it.

It’s been out there for a few weeks while the curb work wrapped up, and I haven’t been quite sure where to dig it back in. They sodded over the best location, and it was a little too exposed to passing dogs and brats anyway. And I kept meaning to find a place, officers, I really did, until I realized it was going to fecking freeze and I hadn’t.

Sometimes I think the best reason for me to work out like a lunatic is that it keeps my neighbors too frightened to confront me when they see me out in the shrubbery with a spade under a frigid clear half-moon sky, mulching.

We’ll see how Sister Rue winters over. State offices are up for election in November.


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