Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some Things are Forever

It was only late November, and I missed them already.

I didn't realize how much until Mars and I were waiting at a red light in our home town of Wethersfield, Connecticut and she commented casually "Oh, look at the dandelions."

And there they were. Four juicy, yellow, out-of-place flowers clustered in a diamond formation on an adjacent suburban front yard. It took all of my willpower to keep from speeding home, grabbing my fork-tongued weeding tool, returning to the crime scene, and forcibly extricating the offending weeds from their non-seasonal attempt at lawn supremacy.

Damn! That would have felt really good.

If the truth be told it was weeds and the act of removing them that got me into gardening in the first place, and the main thing that keeps still me at it -- year, after year, after year.

At first I thought that I was in it for the flowers and the vegetables. Before I knew anything about growing things I actually thought that it was the hand of man, properly applied - with some minor assistance from a fertilizer or two -- that brought floral beauty and fleshless nutrition into the world.

That I would lovingly place new seeds or seedlings into the warm earth; wrap them in swaddling soil; carefully provide them with proper levels of hydration; coax them into their toddler-hood; hover over their growth like a helicopter horticulturalist; guide them through their adolescence; support them into adulthood; and bask in their beauty and savor their flavor when they matured into perfection -- all the while experiencing an almost mystical connection with the plant akin to that of a doting parent.


It all begins okay. On a cool spring morning, made warm by the sun on my back and the exercise of my shovel, I can feel nature sifting through my hands as I gently place the fledgling flora in the rich planting medium that I have created from dirt, compost, and sphagnum peat moss. For a brief moment in time the once-and-future plant, and I, are one with nature. (Well maybe more like fifty percent. It takes two to tango. And in spite of my fanciful wishes I really don't think my partner is that aware of what's happening at all.)

Then it's all-downhill after that.

For weeks there are absolutely no signs of life from the seeds. Then all at once, multitudes of tiny leaves poke through the surface of the earth. All of them are in the proximity of the planting site, but none of them are exactly lined up with the taut white string with which I have carefully marked my future garden spot. All of them look slightly different from each other, but none of them look anything like the vegetation that I am hoping to grow.

Frozen by my inability to distinguish desired flora from insidious invader I leave them alone. Several weeks later, with no intervention at all on my part, a few of them turn miraculously into reasonable replicas of the illustration on the seed package.

The seedlings on the other hand either start growing immediately -- or die. There is not so much as a hint of me being needed. Then, if they are perennials, they reappear next year some place other than where I remember them being the season before.

But you can always count on weeds. They pop up over night - no long growing cycle. And you know exactly where they will appear -- in all of those places where you do not want them.

And, unlike my forced attempt at a spiritual communion with seeds and seedlings, my interconnection with these unwanted vegetative invaders has centuries of speculative evidence to back it up. It is of course the famous "hunter-prey" relationship.

As exemplified by the Cree Indians, it is "...the idea that animals are friends or lovers of human beings is the "dominant ideology" of hunting. The event of killing an animal is not represented as an accident or a contest but as the result of a deliberate decision of the animal or another being to permit the killing to occur. The dream events that Crees say prefigure successful kills are sometimes talked about as signs that this permission has been given. In waking experience, the decision finds culmination when the animal enters a trap or exhibits its body to the hunter for a killing shot." (

I am certain that this is as true of dandelions, as it is of deer.

Flowers come. And flowers go. But weeds, like diamonds, are forever.

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