On Weeding

So many things are urgent and demanding; too many things require constant attention. My garden is not one. It’s too big, too sprawling, and always needs some attention…but there’s no hurry in it.

Really, there’s no point in rushing; there’s no end to the job. Weeding is a lot like laundry. There’s no way to actually finish doing laundry, and there’s no way to finish weeding.

You could argue and try to tell me that one time you washed all the clothes, dried them, folded and put them away…. “That’s great.” I’ll answer, “Well done.”, and ask, “What were you wearing at the time?” See? There’s no end to laundry or to weeding.

Since, there’s no way to finish, there’s no real urgency. Unless you’re out of socks, then you’re on your own.

I used to think that weeding was the simple act of removing unwanted plants from the flowerbed or vegetable garden.

It turns out that there’s more than one technique to weeding:

Casual Weeding: While walking past the garden on the way to another part of the yard, a plant out of place will catch you eye and you lean over to gently pull it out and continue on your way.

Tangential Weeding: This starts out as casual weeding then, an hour later, you can’t remember where you were headed or what you meant to do in the first place. The asparagus bed looks great and you have sunburn.

Intentional: You gear up for this mission. Sunblock, bug spray, sweat rag, gloves, and tools at the ready, you step outside to do some serious mayhem. Intentional weeding has  a definite goal,  you plan to take care of the front flower bed or the tomato patch. Intentional weeding is often followed by cold Beer and pain killers.

Sometimes, gardening is more than gardening. Sometimes it’s earth-based therapy; it’s a thing to do with your hands that lets your mind rest.

Grief weeding:  There is no sense to be made of loss. There should be, but, there isn’t. Nothing will make a difference. But, once the urge to do something hits, you go with it.  So, you make an effort and collect your tools. You move outside to kneel on the earth and make a difference. One. Small. Difference.

There’s no rush, it’s just something to do. You dig your fingers into the soil, sifting out the roots and smooth the soil. The smell of warm, damp earth rises and the small mound of weeds grows. Slowly, slowly, the morning turns to day and the garden looks a little better for the time and attention. One. Small. Difference.

Rage weeding: This is similar to grief weeding except you forget water and gloves and tools. You kneel down by the first garden bed you find and reach your hands into the soil and pull and pull. You tear out the weeds and probably some plants. You move along the edge of the bed, gripping and ripping the unwanted, the ugly. You pull them out and let them go.

Eventually, heat and thirst drive you back inside where you find the sunblock and put some on. It’s next to the sink, so you fill a glass of water and drink it down, then another. You fill a bottle to take outside. On the way back out there’s the basket of gloves, so you take a pair along.

Now, you move more slowly, taking some care to pull the roots along with the leaves and stems. You begin to smooth the soil as you pass, and carry pile after pile of green leaves to the chickens who cluck and mutter and peck. Warm wind ruffles leaves above the yard and sends dappled light across the dandelion flecked grass.

And, like that, Rage Weeding shifts quietly into Grief Weeding. The Garden doesn’t mind. It’s always there, it always needs some time and attention. The earth can handle your grief, your rage, and even your casual attention.

I think it’s the silence. I never take ear buds outside to the garden. I go to the garden to get away from hectic noise and interruptions. I go to earth to make some sense from the senseless, or at least to clear up some small part of it and toss the weeds to my chickens.

I used to think that pulling weeds was a simple thing. It turns out that when you take time to tend the garden, you also tend to yourself.

Clear away your weeds every now and then. Do it casually, or intentionally, or through grief or rage, whenever the time is right.

It’s always the right time.



Photo Credit: Anita Bowen Photography



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