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Posts Tagged ‘weeds’

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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Maybe it’s just that time of year … .. because here I am thinking about weeds again.

In a few more months, weeding is a lazy chore, done on a stroll through the gardens picking out the wayward dandelion.  I keep an old bucket handy to take on my strolls then, and by August, it rarely gets full enough of weeds to bother walking over to the compost pile.  The vegetable boxes are the same, simple to pluck out an unwanted straggler whenever I’m out picking beans or checking the tassels on the corn.  It’s a quiet, pleasant activity:  A warm evening, a light breeze, a tall glass of iced mint tea, taking a few moments to sit in the cool grass and tidy up the edges of a flower bed.

Not now.  This time of year I am frantic.  In Vermont, we get one, maybe two,  good days of spring.  It is cold, bare, frozen, snow still on the ground; and then the rain comes, things begin stirring, the leaves pop out; then POW! everything is growing like weeds and the chores multiply, and it’s summer already!  So, I’m frantic.   Especially this spring.

Usually I manage to keep the gardens FAIRLY under control;  but last summer– gardening simply didn’t happen.  Everything thrived on neglect.  Physically, struggling with the set-back of a case of Belll’s Palsy (a neuro-muscular affliction), I simply couldn’t do it all, so it didn’t get done.  Nothing got mulched, nothing got dead-headed, nothing got weeded, and this year, OH MY!  Last summer’s bare soil received every spore on the wind, every dropped seed case, every unchecked rhizome, and now the natural process of sprouting has taken over.  And that means lots of little baby clover, violets, feverfew, dandelions, and poppies!

prolific poppy weeds

I keep a little patch of annual self-seeding poppies between the Star-gazer  and the Madonna lilies.  By prudent dead-heading and then judicious sprinkling of the tiny black seeds, I can keep the patch just about right.  And what happens in that unfortunate season when there is no dead-heading, prudent or otherwise?  Why of course the prolific seeds profligate and I now have poppies emerging like a carpet throughout my entire un-mulched garden.  Yikes!  And I need to get my vegetable boxes ready for planting and divide the daylilies and get the roses fed and mulched and the perennials are growing a foot per day and soon I won’t be able to manage a trowel between them let alone a scuffle-hoe, and there-are-all-these-poppies-growing-everywhere!!

Oh, Father,  I pray as I work at subverting the plethora of poppies without  harming the surrounding perennials, is my soul, left untended, so easily subject to being overtaken by bad habits?  Do tiny seeds find a place to land when I neglect (or refuse) to prune away that which I suspect is undesirable?    I recognize a tendency in myself to make excuses and slide into denial about certain habits that are probably not good for me.  One, for example.  Sometimes it is comforting and relaxing to snuggle on the couch with JR after a long day and disentangle from the busy-ness by watching a movie or a recorded show.  Perhaps nothing wrong with that, but I have been avoiding the conviction of too easily turning to violent action dramas and ignoring the disquieting impact in the deep, pure places of my own soul.  I try to convince myself that it isn’t so bad.  But somewhere, deep down, I know.   And the more I ignore it, the easier it becomes to fall into the unhealthy habit.  There are others, of course.  The extra cookies.  Staying up too late.  Sleeping in too late.  Too convenient little white lies.  And these are just the ones I care to mention.  I have left the lovely garden of my soul untended in this way…  Oh, Lord, that I would have the same passion that I employ on my undesirable poppies to let You root out the weeds of my own self-deception and self-indulgence.  Tiny seeds can grow into a mess of big weeds.  I plan to be on my hands and knees out there tomorrow morning, taking care of that carpet of unwanted seedlings.  And I’ll be trying to pay attention to my choices this evening.   I know there are bigger and harder battles, but this is where I am being convicted, just today as I think about weeds.   At least right now my weeding trowel will do the trick.   I won’t need to get out the spade, or pick-ax, like we used on the old tree stump last year.

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bountiful Bee Balm

I need to eliminate my monarda.

Wait, that’s not exactly accurate. I WANT to eliminate my monarda.

No, wait again.  If I don’t eliminate my monarda, I’ll be sorry.

I was happy to plant it, seventeen or so years ago, when I was first putting in the perennial border garden. I was digging up whatever looked like a flower struggling to survive in the overgrowth that was the yard at that time. We had just moved into our old farmhouse, vacant for the past decade, and I was trying to make sense of what I found growing under the tangle and trying to create order from the chaos.  I adore the scent and the burst of pure passion of these firework flowers.  I carefully transplanted a small clump and nursed it to vitality, adding more and more perennials to my new garden. Most of the plants were stragglers I found buried in the weedy tangle of the old gardens and others were gifts from friends who were cleaning out and dividing old plants and more than happy to share with me.

Do you know what sorts of plants your friends divide and are happy to give away?? Those that are invasive and have begun to take over their own gardens! I was glad to receive anything at all, so merrily planted monarda, lysimachia, campanula, evening primrose….

I was new to flower gardening, actually, and had a lot to learn.  I soon learned that these pretty plants wanted to take over the world.  They sneakily send out their tendrils beneath the surface in every direction, popping up new plants in the most unexpected places, like in the middle of the iris patch, or between stones in the garden pathway, or under the clothesline.  Too late I learned that if I pulled up the wayward plant like a weed, ten more would spring up from the remaining roots.  Now my beautiful, sparkling magenta monarda is simply TOO MUCH and has gone TOO  FAR, invading EVERYTHING!  I’ve tried everything I can think of to contain it , and now must do something drastic.

I don’t like to admit that I have harbored invasive tendencies in my soul as well.  Nurtured and nourished secret demands and judgments and vows that started out, perhaps,  in response to a hurt or an unmet need of my own.  Unspoken, unvoiced and unknown even to myself, but powerful nontheless:   I deserve your attention and understanding; if you slight me, I will unloose an arrow of unkindness from my lips to pierce your soul….   If you hurt me like that again, I will withdraw from you in cold silence….   I am so disappointed, and you can be sure you will know it.
Yesterday I had a fight with my beloved JR.   Well, it wasn’t truly a fight, but we hurt each other.  We didn’t intend to; but we didn’t intend NOT to, either.  Our tender places and prides got in the way.

I was impatient with disappointment — he said he would do something and didn’t follow through.  At least not on my timetable.  My good longings got tangled up with gnarly roots of disappointment and impatience, and what sprouted wasn’t pretty.  He was hurt, and I was hurt, and  thus we experienced yet another opportunity for repentance and grace.  After 30+ years of marriage, we have faced plenty of such opportunities, and have learned the art of the “Do-Over”.    But ‘Why, O Lord?  Why do I do what I don’t want to do, and fail to do what I truly want to do??’  I deeply love this man, and DON’T want to hurt him.  Haven’t I tugged at these same old roots enough?  Haven’t I tried diligently to eradicate these old tendencies?  Disappointments happen, but unkind impatience is not a lovely response!

I’m so grateful for the Spirit of Christ, who forgives both me and JR equally and equips us to say “I’m sorry, I don’t want to hurt you.  Let’s try that again.”  But:  Am I grateful for the keen opportunity to experience this amazing grace, yet again?  If all  these ugly old roots were expunged, maybe, yes, I would be happier and nicer to live with.  But would I miss the sweet aroma of grace?  Would I perhaps slide into smugness and a different kind of pride?

Meanwhile, my Bee Balm invades my Baptisia, and I don’t know what else to do except dig up the entire garden and replant ONLY the non-spreading perennials.  But, dilemma:  I LIKE the Bee Balm, and I would miss the wonderful aroma and the butterflies and hummingbirds it attracts. What in the world did Eve do in the Garden of Eden??!

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