What’s the worst sentence ever uttered by any kid in the summer months?
“I have to weed the garden.”
These gardens stretch out like miles of oppression and suffering even if they are only a few square feet. I can tell you for a fact that I hated gardens when I was a kid and I can also tell you that the first thing we did when Libby and I got a house and a yard was plant a garden. Let me see if I can explain why.
People ask if I like to garden and I answer, “maybe.” They ask if I’m any good at it, and I answer, “maybe.”
I usually am in charge of planting our garden. Libby and I take turns weeding it and neither of us is really very good at harvesting it. I have mocked hunters who pay $1500 a pound for the pheasant they shot (once equipment costs are calculated), yet I probably pay $80 a pound for the tomatoes we get. Oh, well.
So why do I do it?
I guess I do it for the seeds and the weeds.
I stick my hands in the dirt and I can feel my blood pressure drop, I instantly calm down. I fish out a packet of seeds and plant them in the furrow the same way I did when I was a kid. I go from memory; the carrot seeds I tap out of the packet carefully, the peas and beans I roll out from my hand with thumb and forefinger one at a time, 2-3 inches apart. Once they are planted, I walk them in by pacing down the row, one foot in front of the other, packing the soil in place around the seeds.
And then I wait for the weeds.
I think about my life as I pull the weeds. If I’m smart and diligent and make it a daily habit, the tiny little weeds are wiped out instantly, take that, and that! I think, murdering the little beasts with satisfying vengeance. (I’ve been known to chuckle maniacally while I’m doing it.)
If I get distracted, the weeds get bigger and the job gets tougher. I heave back in a tug of war, the tenacious weed cemented in, rooted deep. Sometimes the weed snaps off at the soil line, dang it!, now it will quickly grow back. Other times I can feel it break loose deep in the soil, a fragment of a root left to grow back and steal moisture and nutrients from my precious seeds at some future time.
The seeds for their part are wimpy, feeble plants that need constant water and tending. A slight nick and they wilt in discouragement; a couple of days of drought and they slump dejected into the dirt. The relationship between good habits that I should do and these frail and weak plants seems obvious to me.
I get up in the morning and I plant some seeds. Some days are pretty good. I get a full eight hours of sleep, I get up, say a prayer, drink a full glass of water, eat a light and healthy breakfast, exercise, write down all the things that are on my mind, select the five things I can accomplish, eat a good and nutritious…okay, okay! I said some days, right? ?
And other days I pull at some stubborn weeds. Old habits that sap my confidence and fuel my anxiety. Procrastination, distraction, laziness, compliance…some pretty tough weeds I am still battling. Not easy, but there is something especially pleasing about grabbing a big thistle of a bad habit and heaving on it with determined gloved hands, until it breaks loose, temporarily defeated. Hah! Take that! I am now far enough along in my garden of life to realize that my happiness and contentment rely on the proportion of good days to bad days. And I have great hope that this summer will be the best one ever.