Today I had the experience of seeing myself as a weed.
An incredibly fertile weed like a “Farmers Friend”, with the little seeds that attach to your clothing and are annoying and incredibly prolific! And I could see similarities to myself. I have a lot of ideas, always on the go creatively, and sometimes frustratingly so – it is a constant practice learning which ideas to follow and which to let go of. I also had the feeling (maybe self deprecating but there anyhow) that my gifts (or little seeds) aren’t always well received.
Anyway, so I got to thinking and feeling what it must be like to be a weed. Unappreciated, doing its best to be its true self, to live out its seed pattern to the best it can, but for this to be offensive and annoying for others (namely humans).
Well what is a weed anyway?
Isn’t a weed a judgment made by the person naming it so?
A weed is said to be something that doesn’t belong. It is not native to the area. It is a problem. It is a pest. It should be gotten rid of.
In Europe, Lantana is a pretty garden plant. Here is it a noxious weed. Noxious!! Maybe we should tell that to the European gardeners who sniff its heady scent each morning and appreciate its delicate flowers. Or let all the butterflies that use it as a source of nectar and energy for their brief lives, let them know it’s noxious.
In China, the streets are lined with beautifully scented Privet trees filling the air with deliciousness. Here, they are a weed.
I guess it wouldn’t be unlike being a refugee in Australia. Instead of looking at what they could bring to our community, the government looks at them and sees a problem.
Oh but then I guess we are all weeds here in Australia (except of course the indigenous). But then aren’t the indigenous the ones that are misplaced and that need to fit into our culture? I guess it is kind of like planting wildflowers in rows 😉
When I am pulling out those Farmers friends, I often rationalize and think of it like I’m pulling out negative thoughts and feelings, so that my life will be more positive, more beautiful.
But how is that for the Farmers friend? Or the refugee? Or the oops, me, being un-indigenous to the area? Is that any different to someone sharing their gift and having me think it silly and meaningless?
I wonder if we could find different ways to work with “weeds”.
I don’t want to deny that some are a problem that need to be kept in check. But what if we could do this with a different attitude?
What if we could change our thoughts and think of the earth as a living being that is probably a lot smarter than us and is constantly trying to heal and balance herself? What if every weed is fulfilling a function? What if we could look for the gift that each weed brings, maybe we could learn and grow and weeds would no longer exist?!
What if we could look for why the weed is there before we just see it as a waste of space? After all, it doesn’t feel very nice to think of yourself as a waste of space and your seeds or creative ideas as pointless and to be destroyed.
Weeds can tell us a lot about the area they are growing in and the health of the earth where they are.
Recently I spent a few hours clearing Lantana from some native rainforest. When we had finished the space left was amazing. Lantana takes up space. Clearing Lantana is like clearing space. But then what if this was the result of space being cleared too much? You don’t see Lantana in undisturbed rainforest after all. It is like Lantana is natures way of trying to protect immense land clearing (done by humans that really are weeds – he he my judgment, I mean they’re not native/wild).
Of course it does end up choking native plants and stopping some from growing, but maybe nature feels this is better than having nothing growing. Maybe Lantana is protecting the land from further interference. Lantana leaves beautiful rich soil from its abundant broken down stems.
Many weeds could play this function. Weeds are strong. They grow in land we have ploughed the shit out of, had cattle walking on for fifty years (well they’re not native are they?), they grow where other stuff can’t anymore because of us weedy humans that arrived on boats 200 years ago bringing err… weeds!
And what of this practice of destroying weeds or not putting them on your compost (because they might seed etc.). This practice I have never agreed with. For one, every plant exchanges substances with the soil, taking things out, putting things in, just like we have an exchange with plants via oxygen and carbon dioxide. A weed is growing somewhere because of the soil quality. What if the soil is lacking in something in that place where the weed is growing, that the weed is putting back into the soil? What if it is actually healing the earth and soil quality by being there? Putting this weed that you don’t want growing there, putting it on the compost and then putting that compost back on the soil is going to be healing that land by replacing the minerals it holds in a composted form.
Secondly, if the seed grows back in the compost, then you need to improve your composting skills. Maybe hotter, wetter, more worms, yarrow, comfrey, I don’t know, do some study, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Thirdly, how about looking at the ecosystem. Why is the weed growing there? Many plants only grow in certain soils. Maybe if you improve the quality of your soil that plant won’t grow there anymore. Just like we only get sick when our body’s soil supports an illness, we only host a bad bacteria when our body’s soil allows it to grow. When in a healthy state the immune system won’t let a disease host within it. So why not let a weed grow until before it seeds, then pull it out and put it on your compost, so it can still fulfill its function in another form?
Maybe nature doesn’t like big dirt gaps between plants. Fields of wildflowers don’t orderly set themselves out 10cm apart, they grow in wild abandon everywhere, filling the space. What if nature likes it that way? What if plants don’t see themselves as separate entities competing for space? What if they actually like being in a tangle of beauty? What if they have a more cosmic consciousness where they are strengthened by growing all together in a big team of plant energy?
What if? What if?
We are where we are at now. Non native plants and people exist everywhere. Sometimes it may cause a problem. But let’s not shoot the messenger. It’s not the cane toads fault it was introduced here on some short sighted vision of balancing things out. It’s just living its life, trying to survive like all of us. It just shows up how out of balance our ecosystem has become with unsustainable practices. Will killing cane toads really make a difference if we don’t change how we are living?
Now when I am weeding the land I am lucky to be caretaker of, I try to discover each plants greater function as I pull it out, and to thank it for how it has given back to nature. I try to remember that no matter what I may think is native, the earth is all one big living being. I doubt if it she/he recognizes our mapped borders. She is just trying to make best of what we crazy humans are doing.
I thank each plant for its effort to put things back in balance, and I marvel at nature’s ability to adapt. I send out the intention that now I, as a representative of humanity, am trying to right some of the wrongs, by caretaking this land with love and care, with consideration and I ask the land spirits to guide me in my land caring efforts so that what we start to live in is a co-created earth.
I guess maybe its good to remember we are all weeds somewhere. There are always places we belong to and feel at home in, and there are others where we aren’t. Wouldn’t it be great if we all started to change our attitudes and broaden our ideas of belonging and accepting, of embracing our differences and trusting that wherever we (and others) are is the right place to be right now? Maybe if we do this, we’ll all gravitate to our natural heart-space and there will be no more weeds.