By Dana Gornall
I’m not very skilled in growing things.
I’ve been known to neglect houseplants, leaving them anorexic and straggly; bowing over dry soil, reaching to get a patch of sunlight as its leaves slowly curl and the tips turn brown. It’s not on purpose. I don’t mean to forget. I simply get busy—distracted. I’ve had two trees just die. I had hired someone a few years ago to plant them for me. He instructed me to water them daily and I did. The next spring they bloomed pretty pink flowers from each branch and I was quite satisfied. The following year, one turned brown and didn’t bloom. It stood bare and thin, a ghost of the young, vibrant tree from the previous year. The next spring, the other tree followed suit. Two dead trees framed the front of my house.
I am very good at growing weeds.
They flourish all around my house with ease; growing quite tall and thick, sprouting interesting flowers that turn into white puffs, which the wind helps to release more seeds of weeds effortlessly. I have oak trees growing inside of bushes and bushes that have tendrils of branches that stick out this way and that in random spots. I have dandelion greens growing low to the ground, and a curly leafed vine that is taking over the grass in my yard and spills over the sidewalk and driveway.
Looking over the chaos of greenery, I wonder why weeds are so much easier to grow than flowering trees. Or why little bugs seem to love to nibble on the leaves of my rose bush, but leave the thorny, stinging thistle perfectly alone.
“I hate pulling weeds,” I tell my friend.
“Think of it as meditation,” he says.
“These weeds are big and tough and have needly parts that poke into the skin and sting.”
“There is a lesson in that.”
“Hire someone?” I joke.
After weeks of neglecting my yard, I finally stop by a shop to pick up lawn bags and a fresh set of gardening gloves, because that thistle really does sting. I go right to work near one of the dead trees. The stinging thistle had grown its way through and around my hostas. I reach toward the base and pull, wondering what the lesson is that I am supposed to be receiving. I hate pulling weeds. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a nicely laid out flower bed, I do. I just don’t want to put the work into it.
So maybe that’s it: I don’t want to put the work in.
How much of that grows like weeds into our daily lives? We want to be fitter, healthier, and stronger, but we don’t want to spend time in a gym. We want to be more flexible, and limber, but yoga is too difficult to get to. We want to be more at peace, calmer and less stressed, but we don’t want to put in the meditation practice time. We want that damn junk drawer more organized and not explode with things we might need or might not need, but we don’t really want to take 15 minutes to organize it.
Damn weeds. I pull back and rip off my new green gardening glove. One of the tiny needle-like thorns poked me in the fleshy part of my thumb mound.
I put my gloves back on and continue pulling, focusing on the viney stuff that covered the ground and spilled out over the concrete edges of the driveway. It comes up easy, in large pieces, leaving fresh dirt behind. I have filled my second bag and placed both near the trash cans. My phone in the back pocket of my shorts is now ringing. My daughter wants me to pick her up. I pull off my gloves and wipe sweat from under my bangs.
I wonder why our society likes the things that are a little harder to grow and despises the things that are hardy and strong like dandelions and thistles or the vine things that cover the ground and poke around edges of concrete. I wonder why we spray and dig and pull and throw away those things we classify as what we don’t want—they just keep coming back, effortlessly—and nurture the more fragile and finicky plants?
What’s the lesson in this.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak