I picked some ragweed today. All along the driveway. Species Ambrosia confertiflora, the carpet that greens up the roadside, masquerading as some pretty little tea leaf. I picked some ragweed yesterday, too. Same little tea leaf. And I pulled some serious ragweed this weekend. Ambrosia trifida, the giant stuff as tall as me that has populated the edges of our yard. This is what happens when the black dirt needed to be the foundation of your new yard is acquired from the local farmer’s ditch: the local farmer’s ditch weed becomes a permanent and unwelcome adornment of your innocent yard.
A small rant:
For the record, the trifida species is where ragweed picked up its common name. The stuff is six feet tall and looks exactly like – not an innocent tea leaf – but big, ugly rags hanging from big, ugly stalks, topped by big, ugly flowers disseminating copious amounts of sinister pollen grains from their big, ugly heads. Ugh.
Really, if you are going to spend any time yanking weeds from the ground, ragweed, big or little, is a nice one. Both species that frequent my neighborhood come up like butter, a sweet satisfying eruption from the earth, hardly ever breaking off or putting up a fight. One might even call the pulling of this particular weed enjoyable. Especially if a dear child of that one is miserably allergic to the pesky weed. Satisfaction on several levels.
I hate weeding. The physical kind, yes, but also the metaphorical kind. You know, the vices and villains of life that hold us back. The habits and patterns that keep us from the fullness of life as we were meant to experience it. There’s just very little that I can find pleasurable there, not in the process. But like it or not, I always find myself trudging through more than just roses and lupine, and the only true way through to the light is to partake of some loathed delayed gratification exercises like weeding.
Have you ever noticed that some weeds, like ragweed, come up with the slightest amount of effort and bring their entire beings up with them, while others (crabgrass? thistles?) refuse to yield? These stubborn types snap off halfway down their little trunks. They tear apart at the ground. They leave the bulk of their taproots anchored deeply in the earth. They connect to a neverending network of runners and cousin weeds, all too ready to jump into the fray when threatened. Short of dynamite or a lethal dose of DDT, those buggers are hanging tight.
I notice the same class system in the weeds of my heart.
There are some vices that really don’t require a whole lot from me. My primary job is to stand up and take notice of them; acknowledge the damage they do to my life and the lives of those around me. And then I need to exert a little effort, but nothing excessive. I kick them to the curb, and occasionally, as they peek back over the fences, I give them the old stiff arm, refuse to admit them back in. They’re fairly well-behaved weeds. They come up like butter, a sweet, satisfying eruption from my earth. But make no mistake, their pollen is deadly. The little effort that is required really is required, for to let them grow is to welcome the sickness that they bring, an invasive draw on my soul.
But the vices that are the real pain are the sneaky ones, the patient ones; the desperate, conceited, parasitic, noxious ones whose only interest is self-preservation and destruction of the light. They’re the ones with the tap roots that they sacrifice like a skink sacrifices his tail, only it is the tail that grows back the body; not the other way around. They’re the ones with the cousin vices waiting to be called into action at the first tug at their underground network. They look innocent enough, but these weeds will go to great lengths to destroy me.
I step up. I take notice. I muster my heroic effort; sweat, tears, and occasional blood present and accounted for as evidence of my toil. I fight and I dig and I hack away, like a six-year old determined to fell that oak with his snow shovel. Sometimes I seem to emerge victorious from the quagmire, waving that taproot of a flag higher. But before long, the skink’s tail is coming back to life, and appears to be stronger for the struggle. No matter how hard I try, I always seem to leave a little of his DNA firmly planted, just ready to rebound through my newly aerated soil. And again, I must fight.
I would that a weed pulled was a weed eradicated, but reality tells me that this is rarely so. Any weed that has taken root within my soul, whether buttery or rooted like iron, will be a hard weed to ever fully eradicate. He will lie dormant. He will take extended vacations. But eventually, the slumbering giant will awaken and stir once again, and I will be left to start the battle again, hopefully a little sooner and with a little more wisdom and maturity than the last time. Eventually I may be diligent enough to catch the eruptions before they even break the surface of the soil. Won’t that be the day.
You wonder – among other things – at my botanical knowledge. Yes, I am aware that pollen travels many miles on the wings of the wind. Yes, I am aware that the ragweed lurking directly outside of our yard is just as menacing as that in our yard. But the fact remains that somehow, surrounded by protective woods as we are, when we eradicate the ragweed from the interior of our yard, the kiddo’s safe zone is enlarged. There are still episodes. There are worse days and better days. But the wider an area we can clear in the direct vicinity of our house, the better things seem to be in the broad sense. Tiny victories.
And something to be learned about other things we work to eradicate.