“Longing is like the seed that wrestles with the ground.’
Emily Dickinson

The dictionary defines “mother load” as the main source or supply;  the urban interpretation meaning “big win,” or “jackpot.”  My garden has been the “mother load” of weeds in the past few weeks, wrestling forth because ground disturbed from shrub removal and enlarging some plant beds provide the opportunity. The reason weeds sprout when the ground is disturbed is because the weed seeds, dormant deeper in the ground, are brought up to the light of day and favorable conditions when the soil is turned and there you have it–the weed frenzy. Still, weeding is a mindful activity and I don’t mind it. Making the way clear. Editing.

The other day I was approaching a traffic light that had turned yellow. My initial thought was to punch the gas pedal and try to zoom through but I thought better of it. Stopped at the light–and knowing it to be a long red–I looked up and across the street to see two guys each in a bucket lift, poised over a McDonald’s sign. It was clear that the guy in the bucket on the right was training the guy in the left bucket The right side guy had a head of gray hair and was pointing out the features of the spray paint device. Then he pointed to the sign and showed what was going to happen next, the other guy nodded that he understood. Then right bucket guy demonstrated and passed the paint sprayer to the guy on the left, waving his hand for him to have a go. All this took place and the light was still red so I continued to watch. The mentor pointed to a couple of places where the trainee had missed, and gestured for him to try again. They both smiled. I was delighted to see this exchange, grateful for the red traffic light and to remember the mentors I have had along the way, my mother especially.

It reminded me also about looking up. I think about this sometimes as I walk the dog, paying attention to the sidewalk until now and again I will catch myself and stop to look up at the trees–ahhhh-much better. Birds flying in and out to their nests, bright green leaves emerging. Rob has an expression that is something like, “It’s hard to have the big picture when you’re only staring head down deep in the weeds.” Excellent point and I’ve sure been deep in the weeds lately. Time to lift my head up and take a wider view before my posture assumes as weed-pulling stance only.

Back to the idea about “jackpot,” or ‘big win” plants that are more than you might bargain for. Plants that are thuggish and should be installed after careful consideration; plants that seed themselves so prolifically they become a nuisance, a weed. This is much of what I’ve been pulling out:

1. Branched coneflower. A vigorous and long-blooming perennial. What I have in this garden I brought from my previous garden. Perhaps I should have left it behind. I think I may have pulled out a full bucket just of this;
2. Marsh blue violets. If you see even one of these in the garden pull it out immediately; they are particularly fond of growing up in other plants–like in primroses, small sedum, in the pebble walkway. They have this nut-like root that is really hard to pull out. I am waging a full-out war with this at the back of the garden near the drive. My current strategy is some Catmint and Monarda which I hope will out-compete it. Stay tuned for an update;
3. Eupatorium rugosum “Chocolate,” or White snakeroot. I brought this into the garden because I love the foliage color. However, it is all over the place. The only thing that makes it manageable is that the leaf is easy to recognize and it pulls out easily. Last autumn I cut off as many flowers as I could to help reduce the volume of re-seeding. This helped but they are still plentiful. I may strike the main plant from the set;
4. Marsh marigold. I don’t mind this one too much because after it shows its cheery yellow face in early spring, the whole plant disappears in short order. They looked a bit untidy today and since I was in the weeding mood, I just removed what I could. I didn’t plant this native wildflower, either; it just showed up one year and has been around since;
5. The worst of the group is Bronze Fennel. I’m wondering if the relatively mild winter caused the bumper crop of seedlings. It is everywhere. My friend Marie wanted some a few years back and I made her promise to still be my friend three years down the road.

The Emily Dickinson line from above appears on a painting I made for my mother some forty years ago as a Mother’s Day gift; it now sits on my dresser. I consider my mother’s longing–her relentless pursuit of her PhD dream under difficult circumstances. Words are like seeds planted in the soil of our minds and carry across time. Even as I pull these plants I do not want in my garden, I consider the tenacity of them the way the connect me to my mother and to Miss. D. I find myself grateful.


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