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Posts Tagged ‘roots’

Well, here I am musing about weeds again.  Sitting in the soil in the early morning while the catbird chatters away in the top of the oak tree and the daddy bluebird explores the bird house at the far end of the garden– weeding becomes a meditative chore for me.

Now, I’ve been called a “Loony” and “Nuts” about weeding and JR might chime in with “OCD”….  I do take my time.  Some years ago, my women’s morning Bible Study decided to meet at our different homes during the summer, and stay to work together out in our flower beds.  While the other women zipped through a section of someone’s perennial garden, I plunked myself down and thoughtfully and slowly pulled out each individual stray, unwanted sprout of clover or dandelion with my fingertips, careful to extract the entire root.  This is an inefficient way to get things done if what you want is a tidy-looking garden in a short amount of time so you can move on to other chores.  But  to me, it feels like an intimate encounter with the earth and what springs from the earth.  It’s the way that I weed, and I laughed at myself along with the others at what little comparable progress I made.  But I was thorough 🙂

So, musing in the morning, sitting in the dirt with my weed bucket by my side, I wonder about weeds.  If a newly germinated sprout is nipped off at ground level, that is usually the end of it.  Without its leaves to produce sugars for the newly forming roots, the the tender new white root will wither.  But with established roots which have stored nutrients, nipping off what shows above ground only strengthens the root to produce more shoots, and the weed grows stronger.  We think we’re weeding when we pull off the visible shoots, and once the green is gone, imagine we are weed-free.  We all know that roots exist, but it’s easy to forget about what we can’t actually see.

[Radish seeds sprouting…  WARNING:  Banjo music…]

Do you see where I’m going with this?  I’m thinking about establishing good habits as well as eliminating bad ones.  A strong plant needs both strong roots and healthy leaves.  Down in the dark dirt, it takes awhile for fragile new growth cells to mature into hardened roots capable of sustaining the top growth.  While that is happening, the visible leaves are delicate and the life of the plant is vulnerable.  Tamper with the young sprout too much and you’ll need to start over with a new seed.  Or, by not carefully protecting and nourishing a new “good’ habit, we risk never developing the rootedness it needs to take hold in our life.

I’m trying to develop a habit of reading and praying a psalm every night before I fall asleep.  For now, I need to be consciously deliberate to make this choice each night, whether I feel like it or not.  By protecting this tender new “leaf”, I’m allowing the roots to form and become a steady part of my life.  I like how Jacques Maritain (1882-1973 — French Catholic philosopher I was introduced to in college) characterizes the notion of Habit in his obscure and esoteric book Art and Scholasticism“Habits are interior growths of spontaneous life…”  He describes it as an attitude or quality of mind; ” a virtue which triumphs over the original indetermination of the intellective faculty…”  In other words, by intentionally and repeatedly cultivating a certain activity, it becomes a part of one’s being.

In the same way, we can let bad habits take hold by forgetting about their roots, which are continually  maturing in the dark, while we don’t bother too much about the little leaves.  If we nip a new “bad” habit in the bud, as it were, the root may never gain a foot-hold.  But if we ignore what is sprouting, the root grows deeper.  Once a bad habit is established, we will need to deal with the root if we are to eliminate it completely; trying to pluck off “leaves” will never do the trick.  This is the essence of true repentance, to bring the root of our motivation up into Christ’s light.

As I prepare to go sit in the dirt again today, I consider:  What gardener wouldn’t love a weed-free garden!  Well, it takes work.  And with diligence, I can hope my gardens might be mostly weed-free 🙂

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