Garden of Weedin’ – Flourishing the Self

Back40 Dawn Horsetails

Some people go into the garden, or into nature because it’s a place where they can find solace from their thought process. For me, the garden is the place I go to put thoughts into perspective…in order…gain clarity and weed the negatives or thoughts that no longer have purpose. Just like my garden weeds.

It feels like an exercise in futility…they just come back!

My friend (and student) exclaimed these words after spending 3 hours pulling horsetails and weeding out old cleavers for me. My reply was immediate – “and then I will be able to harvest the new growth for food and medicine again.”

I do a lot of that in the garden. It’s a seasonal process. First the nettles and dandelions, then the maple buds,  horsetails, chickweed, miner’s lettuce and cleavers. Then the clovers. Later the  berries from trailing blackberry, wild strawberry, brambles, and eventually the fireweed petals. All these plants have a season for usefulness before they become weeds in my eyes, choking out other more delicate wild flowers and more ornamental flower beds, or encroaching on the veggie patch.

For instance, nettles make the best soil, but it’s near impossible to grow lettuces or carrots when they are all over the place. In the first few months of late winter, early spring when the nettles are creating that great earth…and providing me with iron rich leaves for tonics and food…they are doing me a favour. Once the time comes to dig over the veg beds and sow seeds in early summer – out the nettles go (onto the compost to provide extra nutrients there).

The garden, like my life, is a delicate balance of structure and wildness. I have native plants and herbs flourishing alongside non-native perennials, food crops and plants that are just there for the bling. I gather plants for medicine, culinary use and decoration.

I’ve always found weeding meditative and profoundly satisfying, in part because it provides such a good physical metaphor for life experience. When I weed the garden, I also weed the negatives that go round and round in my mind, and from my life. It gives me respite from anxiety, objectivity and courage to make decisions, creative stimulation, as well as a sense of a job well done. The visual effects are immediate both in the garden and in my life.

To me, a plant is not  a weed because it’s the poster child for RoundUp, or because it’s not indigenous, or because it’s termed invasive locally. Each plant proves itself useful or not to me personally. It doesn’t become a weed until it shows how ugly or a bully it is in a managed setting. Until it pops up in the paths or steps or flowerbeds in addition to where I am happy for it to be. It doesn’t become a weed until it’s time of harvest (in the case of nettles, horsetails, dandelions, cleavers, chickweed, fireweed, etc) is over and its usefulness done for the year. Then it’s weeding time.

And how like life is that!

Things happen in our lives…people come and go. Each experience or person is like a plant that we have in the garden. Some of the experiences and people we meet feed our souls, and become that beautiful rose or glorious tree that we rejoice in and prune regularly. They stay in our life’s garden for a long time. Some of the experiences we have, or the people we meet become weeds – ugly and aggressive. We do not need to clutter our lives with the anxiety and stress that causes us. When the experience or the person becomes a weed – then it’s time to weed!

Rest assured that the experience or person has done what was needed for our learning curve. Now it’s time to clear them from our psychic field so that new and undiscovered gems can flourish, and so our path can be clearly seen and traveled. Like horsetails and nettles, it doesn’t mean the experience or person won’t be repeated…sometimes we need to learn the lesson or repeat the experience more than once…each time we manage it differently, learning to weed at the right time, recognising how long it feeds us and removing it before the negative side occurs.

In the garden, once the horsetails bushy greens have been removed, the delicate geums, grasses that feed finches, poppies and other delicate meadow flowers emerge. Once the cleavers are gone – their stickyness eradicated from the ground – the bugle, indian pipe, tiny orchids reach for the sky. Seeds, long dormant because they had no access to water or air, now burst up, creating possibly more weeds, but quite often something extremely special – like the calypso orchid and vanilla leaf that graced the garden here for the first time this year.

CalypsoOrchid Question

In our lives, weeding the negatives makes way for that poem or painting that has been lurking in the creative recesses of the mind, waiting for the path of inspiration to be clear. Or the route to courage that allows other experiences to be had and people to be met. So the cycle continues…and our lives are a garden, maintained by daily weeding. And of course, with all that self love and regular weeding, we too,  become a beautiful rose or graceful tree.