Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Living with the Weeds

What a summer we had this year – warm, sunny, dry, and long. For those of us who are sun-lovers and gardeners, it was joyful bliss. But, as always, August crept in with the vague, intangible feeling that fall was on the way. I’ve wondered why I always feel this, but suppose it is the cooling temperatures, the gradual shortening of the days, along with the difference in the slant of those sunny rays. Endless summer would surely get old (or so I tell myself), so I welcome the change of season with the crisp evenings, moody days, and blessed rain. Lord knows, we could use the rain.
With the extended summer was an extended growing period for both the native plants that surround us and for those we cultivate in our yards. Planting, weeding, pruning, watching for pests, and harvesting flowers, fruits, and vegetables became a drawn-out affair this year. As the weeks - and then the months - passed with no rain in sight, watering became a regular, necessary task. During our usual summer “droughts” native plants survive just fine, having slowly adapted to our unique Pacific Northwest climate through millennia. This summer was unusual, however, and even the natives suffered. Some slowed their growth, some closed up shop early by going into fall mode with leaves turning color, and some simply gave up and died. The weeds, on the other hand, seemed to flourish…
As any gardener knows, weeds are a constant battle. Many hours are spent weeding – eliminating those plants that spring up in our gardens, insidious and unwanted. What is it, exactly, that makes a plant a “weed”? They definitely are plants that we don’t want or like, but there must be more to it than that.
It may be that some of them are natives that are unusually well-suited to taking over any space they find and reproducing exponentially to the point where they crowd out any other plants in the area. It may be that some of them are wanted and liked in other parts of the world, perhaps where they originally came from.
Somehow, they got from there to here and seem to thrive – often because our conditions suit them and they lack the animals here that would consume them back home. I think that weeds go back as far as the first people who, for whatever reason, decided to leave home and wander into new territory. Whether they carried them intentionally, such as for food, healing, or needed materials, or inadvertently as hitchhikers, wherever they roamed some plants went along. All plants do have a use, whether or not we know what that is. For most of us today, weeds are quite simply plants that we do NOT want.
If we think of it this way, some people may be considered weeds. Not liked, unwanted, problems to be dealt with - we find them everywhere if we are looking for them. Misfits, aliens, minorities – call them what you will – they intrude on “our” territory and cause us discomfort. Native or imported, they are unlike us and are often sturdy survivors, for they have had to be. Because they are different and not what we think we want, need, or can use, we’d just as soon weed them out, cleaning up our spaces to our own specifications and satisfaction; discarding them because we don’t deem them worthy to grace our presence.
Are they not also God’s creation and, as such, certainly as worthy as we are? Suppose - just for a moment - that “we” and “they” all grew in the same garden. Consider this thoughtfully, because we are all in this life on earth together, whether we like it or not...
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?  Galatians 5:13-15 (The Message)

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