“Anyone can plant a garden,” an old Mainer once said to me, “but it takes a farmer to bring in a harvest.” Now he may have been referencing drought or locusts, but I’m guessing from the way he rubbed his elbow, he meant weeds.
A weed is simply a plant that is not valued where it is growing. Weeds tend to vigorous growth and can quickly overrun valued plants. They are tricky little devils too, often seeming to mimic a valued plant’s appearance. Many a weed has bought a few more days growth in my garden through this deception.
Weeding is an exercise in critical thinking and decision-making. I must first choose which plants have value. Then I literally clear the field for them, allowing those valued plants greater access to the available energy and resources. The better a job of this I do, the healthier my valued plants. Looking down a weeded row, I can see the crop breathing in relief, stretching a little larger.
Keeping up with the weeding in the throes of summer’s wild growth can be enough to humble the most seasoned of farmers. This I do not even pretend to be. But I do own the necessity of this work. I own too the deep satisfaction I taste when I feel a weed’s roots tear from the soil. There is a bit of Tennyson’s “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” and I the instrument.
In the chaotic garden that is my life, I am always grateful for a good weeding. When a friend makes a spot on comment, or I read a new sparking idea, or a north bound wind spins me a new perspective, I can feel myself breathe a little easier, stretch my wiggling toes a little further. And when a particularly troublesome weed that’s been eating up my energy and time is yanked free, the fresh growth on the valued plants is of the shiniest most vibrant green.
I trust that in doing this work, there will be times I am deceived by masquerading weeds, times I simply can’t make my muscles take one more pass at the row, and times that I erroneously pull out a plant I should have kept.
But no mind, I’m going to keep at it.
1. Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850. Canto 56.
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed