I love weeding. And yet I’ve met many people who despise it. In fact, I meet very few people who weed their lawns or gardens by hand, presumably because they have gardeners or a fondness for Round-Up. I found myself doing a lot of weeding and other yard work this past weekend.
But I discovered I was weeding a lot more than just the flowerbeds.
Personally, I’ve had a terrible couple of weeks. There has been an ever-widening gap between me and my own parents, and a recent communication from my father drove one more nail into that coffin. It’s one of those things that I’m either not ready or not willing to blog about at this point. Maybe because I don’t have the strength, or maybe because it feels too vulnerable. Suffice it say that these events left me feeling completely untethered. I wasn’t sure what grounded me anymore, and felt as though I was wasting my time in a multitude of endeavors.
One such endeavor was blogging. This is the first post I’ve written in over a week, which is unlike me, as I’ve typically posted twice a week for the past half a year. But this past week, I couldn’t find it in me to do it. Blogging had become one of those things that I did for me; one of those things that I felt could be an expression of my struggles. However, feeling as though I’d been kicked down by your own flesh-and-blood, I questioned whether I was worth anything; whether my blogging even mattered. There was a lot of thinking and self-doubt and questioning. Lots going on in my head: thinking, thinking, thinking.
I had to clear things out. I had to get out and weed the garden.
I’ve been dying to get outside for quite a while, but these damn snow/sleet/rain storms in the Northeast have become increasingly maddening. Finally some halfway decent weather this past weekend gave me that rare opportunity to get outside. At first it wasn’t weeding. It was just yard work, hauling big-ass rocks from a pit in my backyard to the front of the house to line my driveway. It became a sequence of throwing 20 pound rocks out of hole, running them up a steep incline in a backpack, and then putting them on a sled (I’m currently wheelbarrow-less) and sliding them over the lawn to their final destination. Just throwing, hauling and dumping. Throwing, hauling and dumping. I did that for hours and hours. I attempted reigning my son into it too, saying that I needed his “artistic eye” to line up the rocks just right. He got very distracted and disappeared in spite of my flattery. Even at 6-years-old, I got the “nice try old man” look as he walked to the backyard to play with sticks.
So I continued, as content as could be with my rocks. Then Sunday came and I woke up much earlier than anyone else in the family. That’s the time of day when I’d usually write. But I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to look at the computer. I suited up and went out to the front yard for about two and a half hours. I wanted to be outside in the bitter 30-something degree March cold, digging in the dirt.
Weeding is just about the most meditative action I can think of. I get down on my knees, look for weeds, then twist, pull, toss. Over and over again. Twist, pull, toss. Engaged in that action, I find that I don’t or can’t think of anything else. I’ve even TRIED thinking about things as I weed, but I just can’t do it. My mind always goes back to the weeding. After all, that’s the heart of meditation, noticing a thought, releasing it, and returning to what’s right in front of you. I weed time and again, and always feel calm and complete during my weeding practice.
I’m sure that I’m also attracted to the metaphor of weeding. Post winter my lawn looks like a wreck. Decorative grasses have shed their husks, which drift across the semi-green grass. Weeds and grass intrude on the mulch. Fallen sticks from hurricane winds and blizzard snow are cast like war zone obstacles on my grass. Entangled masses of dead perennials choke the flowerbeds. Spring weeding is a chance to get rid of it all. It’s a chance to slog through all the death and decay and make room for new life awaiting in the fertile soil. There’s nothing quite like clearing dead leaves with your hands to uncover a crocus popping through the soil. Or standing up from hours of crawling around on your hands and knees to admire order emerging from the chaos (or at least the illusion of order).
I finished this weekend with a little more clarity. Of course, there is a time for thinking. There are many issues that I need to make sense of, feelings that I need to work out. But in the flurry of thoughts and feelings around issues with my own parents, I lost sight of some of the important things in my life, and lost hope that these things were worth anything at all. This past weekend was one of those times when thinking wasn’t going to do me any good. I just had to weed, weed, weed, uncovering some of the new growth under the decay.