The mosquitoes actually held off long enough the other night for me to do some weeding in our vegetable garden. In that time shortly before the gloaming, when the heat of the day was finally fading as the sun dipped between the trees and the wind rose up to fill its space, I loosened the earth all around my feet, gently extricating snap pea tendrils from crab grass claws. There were weeds with plump, red stalks that looked like they would ooze moisture if I snapped them. There were delicate rounded leaves with lacy white flowers. They were under and around and throughout – an integral part of my garden – perhaps more numerous than the plants that were supposed to be there.
At times, I had to stand back and survey the leafy patch below me. Bent over in the worst possible posture for my back, it was hard to distinguish the plants from the weeds. At eye level, all the leaves blended into one range of green. It was hard to tell where the clover ended and the pea leaves began. The heart-shaped leaves of the green beans melded with tall stalks of pointed leaves. There were even imposter marigolds with tiny yellow buds.
It almost scares me, the uncanny ability of nature to so closely mimic ‘actual’ plants with its weeds and then to germinate them right next to the others so they have the best possible chance at survival by blending. Think about it, the first weeds a gardener pulls – even if it’s in the five-second walk to her driveway – is the tall spindly one sticking out like a sore thumb. These others are stealth, imposters of the best kind – or most insidious depending on whose side one takes.
It’s no wonder, then, that I have a hard time distinguishing my bad habits from productive practices; destructive behaviors from healthy ways of being. The roots of the less desirable plants of my life are invasive, wrapping themselves around my more likeable attributes and behaviors, making themselves almost impossible to extricate – or at least harder to distinguish or even notice. Without stepping back to take stock, my life is one solid plane of green, weeds and all; the different shades and shapes indistinguishable.
Making the rounds at our local farmers’ market, I stopped to talk with a woman who had woven some beautiful baskets (who also happens to know a thing or two about gardening; she harvests worms for composting). One skinny, oblong one with a graceful arch of a handle caught my daughter’s eye. The woman directed my attention to a small ceramic plaque stitched to its front. ‘Weeds’, it said. She told me of the Native American tradition of placing their worries in a basket such as this to put them away; make them go away. I joked how you could also take weeds as a literal worry as a gardener.
But as the day went on, I marveled at how symbolic that little basket and the word etched on its front were. If I don’t take the time to stuff those weeds into a receptacle of some sort, they will crowd out the good in my life. The weeds of worry, perfectionism, over-catastrophizing, unrealistic expectations, not prioritizing, not slowing down enough to come to a gentle stop rather than a screeching halt. I need to cultivate my garden in such a slow, gentle way that I see the weeds as they pop up and handle them one by one, rather than waiting to turn the earth over and start over because they’ve taken over.