Pulling Weeds

I don’t know about where you are, but here in California we have hit the peak of Weed Season. A few days of long-awaited rain, a couple of days of sun, and the hills begin to turn gloriously green. So does my gravel driveway, and whole swaths of my yard where you are supposed to be able to actually see the things that I’ve planted.

I have to say there is a certain glory to wrenching vast, bushy weeds from the rain-damp soil, filling the 96-gallon green waste bin to overflowing. That was last week. And the week before. OK, and the week before that. And there are plenty more weeds all around the yard, but in my mind it has moved on to lawn time.

Let me explain. I have a big, well, “lawn” probably isn’t the right term. I’m not a fan of the kinds of chemicals that it takes to maintain a pristine lawn, nor the quantities of water. Apparently the previous owners weren’t either. What I have might be better described as a mostly-green, mostly-flat space that serves me well as a place for dog training. But it only works well as a dog training space if it’s mostly free of the kinds of weeds that grow burrs and needle-like seed pods and generally anything prickly. Which, it turns out, is most of your common weeds, which got so common by sticking their seeds onto anything that moves and spreading themselves around.

So I have spent time every spring, for the last several years, meticulously pulling out every little potentially prickly weed that I could get my fingers on. Little weeds. By the thousands. Every year. Which, it turns out, provides a person of ministerial or poetic bent such as myself with ample opportunity to think about the other kinds of weeds we pull up in our lives.

There are the giant, ugly weeds like racism, classism, heterosexim, ableism and all the others. Weeds which we root out and think are gone, until something catches the corner of our eye, or someone else points out that something bushy and threatening has grown while we weren’t looking. These kinds of weeds tend to have roots deep underground that we aren’t even aware of, and they can grow awfully fast under the right conditions.

But today I’m thinking more about the lawn weeds, the little insidious ones that you don’t see until you sit down on the ground, but which will overtake your life if you just let them grow. Weeds of insecurity and shame. Weeds of pride and superiority. Weeds of greed and anger and jealousy and, really, all of those classic deadly sins.

Even when you’re looking straight at these little buggers it can be hard to tell just what you’re seeing. You could easily think you were cultivating righteous anger when self-righteous indignation was really sprouting from the root. Shame can masquerade as humility, although they are not even related species. Heart-felt longing and greed can look the same until the tendrils begin to take over.

I am no expert gardener, but I’ve learned a few things over all my years of plucking weeds. I know that the weeds will always be with us, blown in on the wind or sprouting up from roots that we will never manage to pull out in their entirety. Pulling weeds is not a job that is ever complete. But I also know that it makes a difference. Weeds that once threatened to take over my lawn—or my heart—now are pretty much relegated to the edges. Pretty much. The percentages change. And every time you root out something that you really didn’t want as part of your landscape you make room for something else to grow.

Weeding and watering and living in gratitude for the rain and the sun. That’s what we gardeners of the spirit do.


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