This past year I took on a garden project. Mind you, I was raised in New York City, so despite the fact that my mother spent every spring with newspaper spread out on our dining room table as she created basically the most impossibly fertile balcony garden in the world (let alone Manhattan), “garden” is a foreign word to me.
I rarely paid attention when my mom made her balcony garden every year. When we were invited to our friends Bob and David’s house every other weekend because gardening (and really weeding) was my mom’s job up there, I was usually inside reading, on the back porch churning homemade ice cream, or exploring the graveyard next door. (Literally next door. A graveyard. I don’t know why this didn’t scare me more.)
None of that dirt shit for me, thanks.
I now live in Los Angeles where you can basically grow shit year round, and for the last ten years I’ve lived in a house with a giant backyard that I’ve barely touched—although to be fair for most of that time it’s had a play-set and a trampoline occupying a majority of its space.
Now that my son is getting older (almost 14 for fucks sake), the play-set is gone, the trampoline is on its way out, and there’s more time alone I need try to figure out how to fill.
And so I’ve turned to my garden as a way to connect to myself, the earth, and my spirit.
Which means digging in the dirt, figuring out what to plant, when and where, experimenting, fucking up, and yes, weeding.
I haven’t weeded in a while (because dirt), and we’ve recently had a LOT of rain here in LA. Like, a lot a lot, like maybe more than I remember having in the last 18 years that I’ve lived here. And that’s ok because we’ve needed it, but bad shit is happening, like the giant oak tree that fell down in my mom’s neighbor’s backyard (that narrowly missed tearing through my mom’s garage) because its roots were so soaked they just pulled right out of the ground.
And let’s not forget the mudslides that are tearing through the areas that were ravaged by fire last summer.
But let’s not get into a debate about climate change. (Because there’s nothing to debate. It’s real and it’s here. The end.)
So, back to my weeds. There are a lot of them because rain. And for those of you who don’t know (which is probably a narrow margin), in order for your weeds to not grow right back when you pull them, you gotta get them out by the roots. And for some reason, weeds have the strongest fucking roots in the entire garden system. (It’s a fact. Look it up. Or don’t because it’s not, but you know it’s true.)
So, this morning, after dropping my son off at a weekend hang I put on my oldest jeans and sweatshirt, and that old pair of sneakers I knew I was saving for something useful, and got down and dirty in the garden.
And as I was clearing, tugging, ripping, digging, levering the weeds, I noticed that the larger the weed, the easier it was to remove. The littlest ones are harder to grasp, and while their roots might be shallow, they’re more likely to break off at the top because the stalks are also narrow and weak. The satisfaction level of getting those out is pretty low.
But the bigger ones, the taller ones, the ones that have more insidiously spread out, they’re easier to grasp, and you end up having more leverage on them. Once you feel that root loosen and the whole thing just pulls right out, the level of satisfaction is super high, and the space you’ve cleared is that much bigger.
And I thought, well isn’t that a fucking metaphor for life.
Sometimes we can’t remove the thing when it’s tiny. Sometimes we have to let it grow so it can be more easily grasped, and when we finally remove it, the space left in its absence is more abundantly freeing.
Sometimes we have to get a tool down deep to loosen it up, but man, when that thing pops, there’s no feeling like it.