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When I built my first garden and it began to grow, I did not recognize some plants that emerged. So, I enlisted the help of an experienced friend and we would play “friend or foe.” I had double dug the land: six feet down and planted bulbs and shrubs and rooted plants in the hopes that my perennial garden
would be perennial: “lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.” (New Oxford English Dictionary)
But live things live. And every living thing dies.
I learned that in the first year many perennial plantings sleep. I learned that in the second year many perennial plantings creep. I learned that in the third year many perennial plantings leap! In my experiences, dogs are like that too. In the first year, they grow tall. In the second year, they mass and in their third year we equate their development with that of a 21 year old human. And then, no matter
how much we try, they never live long enough.
While my learnings in the garden were predictable, I also learned that Mother Nature is much more creative than I am and the harder I tried, the less I was able to control.
To win the game “friend or foe” was to identify the growing plant as a “friend” which we deemed those carefully selected, worked into a design, bought and paid for, cultivated worthy plants. “Foes” were those we identified as weeds: interlopers! Scourge! Interrupters which we could then yank out and so
eradicate. I never won that game.
I designed and created an environment where I orchestrated birth, growth, death and more murder which I am loath to admit. I selected favorites from my mothers garden north and east from where I was planting in distance and climate. I ordered plants from catalogues grown west and south. I pulled them from pots where they’d been fed and grown, scored and pulled apart their roots and placed them in my garden. Some thrived. Some died. And I learned my weeds. I loved my garden and I fed my roses shit. Their blooms were judged and won prizes. I picked them and put them in vases and watched them die. Long lived in my garden, my roses fed the pollinators who fertilized them so they
produced fruits, seeds, and young plants. I fed my weeds too but without intention. My weeds produced more weeds.
Spring is coming on fast here in my garden. My old camellias are blooming as beautifully as ever and my Lenten Roses give me pause to look and wonder how lucky I am to be here with them. But really! How is that I can still think they are mine? Especially after these bizarre days and times and what I had always never thought might happen. Audacious. Audacious times.
We need to move beyond the idea of ‘environment’
The difference between environment and community is control. I’m learning that we are all a part of everything. I’m learning that if there is any control it is mechanical and of our own creation. Control is not in our Mother’s nature.
How I love my garden and it has taught me that love is not to be controlled. There (and in my experiences) neither is grief to be controlled. Though not the same, love and grief they are our nature: light and dark: positive and negative. Yin and yang, clearly opposite or contrary forces may be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Wow that’s audacious.
Still as we practice our love openly, we hide our grief. We celebrate our love. We fight our grief. We’re proud of our love. We are shamed by our grief. Could it be that just as the roots of our “foes”- our weeds- grow entwined with our “friends” in a perennial flower bed…isn’t that community?
I’ve learned that I too am community and that weeds- especially those that volunteer in the most unlikely of places- are the font of my hope blooming and faith’s sweet scent.