Yesterday, the NY Times published 14 essays, “The Joys of…” in the hopes of uplifting our spirits in these unpleasant days. So, I decided to write today about the joys of weeding.
I have a pachysandra patch which runs the length of our front walk. We used to have a heavily wooded lot, but, unfortunately, several of our trees succumbed to a variety of ailments and have been taken down over the years. We still have shade, though, and our pachysandra thrives. I love its hardiness; I love its greenness; I love its lush carpet-like rapid growth. While I don’t love the weeds that still infiltrate the patch, I do enjoy pulling those weeds.
For one thing, pulling the weeds takes effort. I appreciate the necessity of putting effort into something that matters, even if it matters only to me. While I’m exerting that effort, I can imagine that I’m digging into deeper matters. I can let my mind wander. When I come across a particularly difficult clump of dandelions, I think about my dad, whose vegetable garden was the delight of his summer. He’d let me dig up the dandelions along side him. “First, use the watering can and get the soil wet. Wait a little bit. Now, take the weed knife, and jiggle it all around the stems to the root. Push the soil away from the root. Start pulling. If it’s not coming up easy, dig some more. Keep pulling. Be careful. We don’t want the root to stay behind.”
“We don’t want the root to stay behind.” I think about the roots that have stayed behind in my life. Roots of kindness. Like the time my friend, Jim, brought me a gift of music after my brother died and sat with me while we listened, and I cried, and he held my hand. Like the time,when we were young homeowners and our neighbor noticed a dogwood we had just planted was in distress, and he offered to help us save it. Like the time just recently when a different, much younger neighbor, called to ask if she could run any errands for us. Like the time, a few days ago, when one of the children who live next door, brought a bunch of rhododendron blooms, rang the doorbell, and dropped them on the porch with a big smile. They were blooms from my bush, but still!
I think about how we used to use the broad leaves of weeds to make “cabbage roll” mud pies. My friends, Marie and Geraldine, and I spent so many lazy summer afternoons “cooking” and having tea parties and pretending we were mothers.
I remember the days when my own children were young. How they would “help” with the gardening, picking me nosegays of wild violets and dandelions. How they would “help” me bake a cake by licking the beaters and assuring me that “This is real good, mommy.”
Weeding brings me joy because it brings me memories. Joy is more than being happy. Joy is more than delight. Joy is what happens when we let ourselves believe in tomorrow.