“What’s good about a weed?” you ask! Perhaps, like me, you’ve spent a lot of time trying to get rid of weeds. But are we losing a valuable resource? Perhaps, both in our gardens and our lives, weeds have a place.
Cobbly-pegs, bindis, nut-grass, blue thistle, milkweed – the list of weeds I have spent my time attempting to eradicate is extensive. It ranges from tiny prickles in the grass that lodge in bare feet, to clingy ones that attach themselves to you as you brush past, rangy ones that quickly smother whole areas of garden – all the way up to coastal hibiscus – a tree which is beautiful in the right spot, but left to grow rampant sends down suckers everywhere and forms an almost impenetrable forest.
But just lately I’ve come to appreciate some things about weeds.
- They can be beautiful. Many weeds were brought here and planted as attractive garden flowers. It is only because they are in the wrong spot and able to grow unchecked that they become weeds.
- They are hardy. They often survive in tough conditions, where more delicate plants cannot.
- They are determined and persistent. They are survivors. Despite many attempts to get rid of them, many weeds keep coming back.
- They are opportunistic. Weeds are quick to seize any chance to spread their seeds, or find a bare patch.
- They dig deep. In permaculture, particular weeds are encouraged in the vegetable garden because they are very deep-rooted. They access nutrients from deep down in the soil structure, where more shallow-rooted vegetables cannot reach. As a result, many weeds are very nutritious. Dandelions, nettles, milk-thistle, cobbly-pegs are all good for us.
- They provide food for insects, bees, butterflies and birds. A friend who owns a butterfly house was walking around my weed-infested garden, and was excited to see so much “caterpillar/butterfly” food! And it’s true we do have a lot of butterflies in the summer.
This got me reflecting on the “weeds” of my life – the unwanted things that I feel are spoiling the beautiful garden of pretty flowers and productive vegetables that I want my life to be. No matter how I try to eradicate them, these ‘weeds’ keep coming back, and sometimes taking over, out of control. Can I develop some sort of positive relationship -of peace -with these weeds? Here’s what I’m trying:
- Identifying them. Do they look like frustration, fear, self-justification, envy, impatience, stress, laziness, selfishness, criticism, doubt, overwhelm – or one of the many other weed varieties? I am giving myself the gift of time – to sit with it, feel it in my body, draw an image of it – perhaps get some outside help – to try to clearly identify each particular weed.
- Understanding their characteristics and growing requirements. I want to really get to know them – how they look, where they grow in my life. What conditions do they flourish in? What feeds them?
- What good things does this weed do in my life? Does it help me “dig deep” and access knowledge, emotions, parts of myself that are deep down in my psyche? Can it mine valuable nutrients – talents, desires, qualities I didn’t know I had?
- Does it have an energy about it, that drives it to seek opportunities, to grow, to flourish? Can I use this drive in positive ways? Is it the impetus I need to propel me towards change, to go for what I really want?
- Is it “a flower gone wrong”? Does it have a positive and beautiful aspect to it, that could be lovely if properly tended? Most weeds speak to us about our needs – instead of trying to eradicate them, I can look for the need it is expressing. For instance, we envy in others what we have lying latent within ourselves. When I find myself envying others, I can spend time seeing where I have that quality in my own life. How can I tend and grow it?
Well, that’s it for now. The sun is shining, the air is cool, and I’m off to do some gardening!
And may everything in the garden of your life grow beautifully today.