Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"I don't want to work. I don't want to go to church. I just want to go outside and get down on my hands and knees and weed," a friend of mine said the other day, and I can understand the sentiment.

Of course, I get all philosophical about weeding, which may or may not bore you out of the blogosphere, so I'll try and stick to the facts. (Didacticism is a cursed weakness of mine. Such writing is best left in the Personal Growth/Self Help section, in my opinion, but who knows? Maybe that's my unborn career path.)

WEEDS are those things growing out there in the garden that you wish would just grow elsewhere. I am always weeding. I walk out across the lawn, see one, rip it out, toss it, continue. I weed when I'm eating lunch, I weed when I'm on the phone, I weed whenever I'm doing anything else outside. It's a mindless, repetitive task, monk-work, and one good for contemplation, communication, and communion -which is why I could understand doing it in the place of church or work. After all, it is work and you are down on your knees, but you do it because you're getting something accomplished without any burden of the obligation to finish. Like any Christian work, there's no obligation to finish because you never will, (and the good Lord forgives you for it) but you must never stop. They're weeds. They'll take over.

I'm getting good at weeding. The trick is to pluck them when they're young, when they come out easily without any fight, but you also have to be able to tell the difference between a weed and a plant you want growing there. It's a heady concept. Sometimes when I'm weeding, my daughter will come out and "help" by pulling out all the flowers and vegetables I just planted. But if we plant enough seeds and let everything grow we'll learn all the important leafy differences. Planting is necessary with weeding. Don't plant anything and you'll either have all weeds or nothing but barren and empty ground. (And it's never really empty. Look closely: more weeds coming.) Some folks think that Roundup is the best thing for weed control, but it's not. The best thing for weed control is a well-planted and well-tended garden that crowds the weeds out and down to a manageable level. It really is possible.

Something funny about weeds: one man's weed is another man's flower. I looked over my fence the other day and saw my neighbor mowing his "lawn" but it was more that he was mowing his property, which was covered with weeds. I saw dandelion seeds shooting out of the mower with reckless abandon but then drifting gently on the breeze with their tiny little parachutes, right over the fence, and onto my fertile lawn. And I tossed around handfuls of lawnseed a few weeks ago, in order to replant some bare spots. I got some of the seed in my garden boxes, where it is now sprouting healthily. On the lawn it is grass. In boxes it is a weed. Life's confusing that way.

I actually bought and paid for a weed the other day -it was the damnedest thing. I was at the Spring Garden Show at the fairgrounds on Sunday. Perfectly manicured, vibrant botanical displays as far as the eye could see -and not a weed in sight! I was perusing several flats of herbs when I came across a dark crimson and yellow-flowered Oxalis, the likes of which I had never seen. Oxalis is an aggressive weed, with a shallow root system and a fascinating Darwinian propulsion device that can blast weed seeds as far as 6 feet. The stuff is ground-colored when it first takes root and sprouts, so it's tough to spot and clear. I've spent many hours tearing those knitted roots out of flower pots and corners of the yard that I'd considered conquered only days earlier. So here was a pretty weed, and I got sucked in and plopped down 4 bucks for it. I put it in a nice pot and fertilized it, like a drunken priest nurturing a sole vice. That priest will wake up with a hangover and head to confession, and I'm sure I'll be ripping that pretty Oxalis out of my lawn by the handful later this season. Interestingly, one species of Oxalis is also the Shamrock, which must be the national weed of Ireland. Perhaps the Irish just gave up on the weeding altogether. And hey, find the mutant weed with four leaves and guess what? It's good luck! See what happens? Don't let the weeds define you.

And sometimes you just don't know what to think. You're playing on your nicely-weeded grass with your three-year-old and she suddenly stops and yells cheerfully, "Look Dad! A pretty yellow flower!" and she rips it out and brings it to you.

She's not weeding, but she is. Life's confusing that way.