When I was growing up my mother could often be found out in the yard pulling weeds. My thoughts were always, why? It just seemed like a boring task that aways needed repeating day after day and never getting anywhere. My mom wasn’t much of a gardner, but she encouraged me when I showed interest in starting a vegetable garden one spring when I was in high school. I guess her weeding chore had begun to grow on me, but I wanted more to show for it. Our out-grown old swing set was in the perfect place for a garden, so away it went and I went to work preparing the soil for seeds and of course, strawberry plants.
Now I knew next to nothing about gardening, but I had a yearning to connect with the dirt, bugs, worms, seeds, seedlings and what ever else I came across. By summer’s end I had managed to get some tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and a few other veggies. Nothing to brag about, but my hard work did reap a few tasty treats. The strawberries took a few years to produce a good amount of berries and of course I was off to college by then and didn’t get to enjoy them, but my mom did.
Today I was reminded again of my mother’s love of weeding as I performed the same task for the umpteenth time. As the end of summer is quickly approaching I have mixed emotions when it comes to the yard and garden work that I’ve been attending to for the past months. My gardening skills have improved 10-fold since high school through much trial and error over the years. As much as I love the sight of my garden labor as each plant unfolds it’s beauty from spring through fall, it’s actually the pulling of weeds that gives me the most satisfaction.
Now I have to confess that my garden is definitely not well organized, tidy and weed free. In fact it’s far from it. To me that suggests OCD and that’s not fun or that maybe someone else does all the work and hopefully gets paid well for it.
While weeding is a chore for most people, often saying, I don’t have the time, any gardner can tell you, there’s no such thing as a maintenance free garden, weeding is an absolute must.
I usually give myself a time limit which may be 15 min. or hours broken up with other garden/yard work. On a beautiful day I can easily spend 2-3 hrs. in either the back or front yard. Weeding, mowing, trimming, etc. provides the repetition that creates an avenue for mediation. There is a glorious freedom for the mind in physical repetition. Plus, I often get my best creative ideas while weeding or doing other tedious garden tasks. My mind quiets, often to a whisper and will go silent altogether. Thoughts just disappear and I simply become my hand pulling weeds from the soil or my feet walking behind the mower. It’s a magical state that brings me into a relaxed mood like no other. And, my yard and garden look fantastic with what felt like little to no effort to achieve. What a bonus!
If you are new to gardening or have never shown any interest in it, you may think I’m off my rocker. I understand totally since I thought my mother was off hers all those years ago. There are times when the summer day is so hot and humid that the last place you’ll find me is working outside. But weeding, like yoga or meditation, is a practice. Something you can get good at and learn to like, maybe even love, over time as I have.
As summer begins to come to a close and my favorite season comes into bloom with it’s magnificent colors, the weeding ends and the leaf blowing and raking takes over. By Thanksgiving my gardening chores will come to a close and while there’s a sense of relief that it’s over, there’s also a little sadness that comes over me. I’ll have to wait until spring before I get my hands back into the earth’s delicious soil and revel in wonders I find there. To me, gardening is about my connection with nature, and I find mother nature continually fascinating. And so I have come to see that gardening is weeding. And weeding, at least for me, is pretty close to Zen.
Note: The feature photo is the side of my garage that was painted by my daughter and her high school art club in 2003. I love having a beautiful garden year round.