I have spent a fair amount of time recently on my hands and knees. Not praying, or begging. Weeding.
Our backyard has been taken over by mustard garlic, burdock, deadly blooming nightshade, creeping charlie, thistles, nettles, dandelions, broadleaf, and other green and growing nuisances. We are also plagued by upstart box elder seedlings--the devil to remove, due to the right-angled underground turn taken by their roots.
Working to reclaim this formerly habitable part of our property has sent my body into an almost permanent penitent position. And then there are my dirt-caked nails, as soil has even penetrated my admittedly cheap gardening gloves.
My mind, too, has assumed the position.
To begin with, there is the guilt and confusion I feel as I wrestle with those unwanted fledglings. How do I decide what stays, and what goes? Do I let neighbors determine the composition of my landscape? (Do I only imagine that they look askance at my dandelion spores wafting toward their perfect lawns?) Do I adhere to the norms of the politically correct? ("Mustard Garlic, invasive, bad.") Do I consult the experts, with their lists of unwelcome species?
I have the easiest time with those varieties known to be dangerous to dogs and small grandchildren. Nightshade and burdock, I pull with abandon. But what about the creeping charlie, with its gingery smell and its sweet purple blossoms, which has volunteered to take over for my sketchy grass? Why, again, do I want to preserve the stuff that requires constant mowing, and constant nagging about mowing?
And on the other side of this yard maintenance divide are the pansies, begonias, roses, raspberries, mint, peonies, irises, forget-me-nots, mums, columbine, poppies, tulips, sedum, stella d'oro and other day lilies. The plants I have introduced intentionally, and wish to keep. Somehow, they thrive less happily than the so-called "weeds." Perhaps this is how I should distinguish weeds from flowers, though that seems a bit pessimistic.
My mind is also occupied, as I yank and discard, with applying the metaphor to my life. It comes to me that lots of what I do, and think about, grows like Topsy and threatens to take over my hours and my days. And that much of it has crept in, uninvited by me. And that many of the things I have chosen, and attempted to nurture, are not flourishing.
Like my novel, choked by the weeds of Wisconsin politics. Losing its struggle for a dedicated patch of ground.
Tomorrow seems like a good day for more weeding. . . .