“With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Weeding my garden
One of the downsides of having flower beds is that you have to weed them. Each year, in early spring, I set out with my trowel to do battle with The Invaders.
But it's a good exercise - weeding - and this year its taken on an even greater significance because it's become an analogy for my life.
The thing about weeds is that they are tricky. Take wild strawberries for instance. Last, I discovered one sprouting in the flower patch beneath the front bedroom window. It was pretty, with delicate little flowers and tiny, perfect fruit. Against my better judgement, I let it stay. This year I discovered strawberries sprouting all over, growing from runners that had surreptitiously twined themselves through the warming soil.
Their beauty had seduced me into thinking they were a harmless and friendly complement to my flowers. But as I ratcheted them from the dirt with the tip of my trowel, I realized the strawberries had twined themselves around the base of everything surrounding them, choking the other plants and leeching nutrients my tended garden needed to grow.
Their spread had been slow, insidious. Strawberries are like the bad habits I've developed, particularly the habit of investing time and energy in foolish pursuits, or in people who reveal themselves to be parasitic before I realize it. Now, as I pull up the runners I see not green strands between my muddy fingers, but tendrils of time wasted where it should not have been.
Clusters of crabgrass in my herb bed are a particularly nasty opponent. Tugging them is useless, and if I forget my gloves I end up with tiny sharp fibers embedded in my skin. Force is useless with such weeds. The only way to eradicate them is to kill them at the root. To do that, you have to first find the root and apply a herbicide.
Crabgrass is my pride. The root of that pride is my fear - the fear of losing, of being wrong when I so desperately want to be right. When the root is weakened enough for the grass to release its hold, I can pull it out and consider the genesis of my fear. The withered root reminds me of my childhood, of being told I was unworthy and believing it - and how I still believe it sometimes- and how I fight to prove to myself and others that I am worthy. And then, in that push to prove myself, how I take it a step further and tell myself that I'm not only worthy, but better and smarter. It's a particularly nasty root, it is. I shall have to continue to spray it.
Dog fennel is easy to pull up, but it reseeds itself with abandon. It's impossible to get rid of dog fennel, I've decided. I just keep an eye out for it and cull it as it sprouts. The pile of dog fennel in my wheelbarrow represents my small, ever-present foibles - the stray profanity when my computer crashes at work, the little joke made at someone else's expense, my tendency to procrastinate, my inability to say "no."
It occurred to me yesterday, as I dumped yet another load of weeds onto the compost heap, that it would be less trouble to just mulch over the Invaders. Out of sight out of mind. But that would never work. Covering weeds with a blanket of mulch would be like covering faults with a blanket of denial. The weeds would just continue to grow and take over, choking out what I'd promised to lovingly tend.
Sometimes it's good to get your hands dirty, to clear the soil of your garden. And of your heart.