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Posted By Opening the Heart

   This morning when I walked my dog, Fenway, I felt it in the air: the more moderate air temperature of 40 degrees, the sun coming up over the tree line later in the morning, the cardinals and robins chirping and looping through the air. I know, I know, this sounds like the delusions of an over-hardened native New Englander mistaking a temporary mild weather front from a true change of seasons in early February. But I did feel it. And because I did, I started looking at the tired, overgrown gardens on my walk, imagining turning the ground over in two months, clearing out the old and dead, making room for the new life that would come.

   I'm a weeder by nature. I was hard-wired and designed to sit in a part of a garden and hand pick weeds so the rightful inheritors could take their place. I can remember doing this since I was a boy, always feeling things aligning properly when a patch had been cleared. If you're a careful and serious weeder, this is not so easy as it may look. You need to know weeds and how they sometimes deceive by looking like new sprouts of flowers or plants. You have to know how to pick the weed out, going deep, getting the whole root so it doesn't grow back. And you should really know what to do with the weed so it will help in the compost to fertilize new oriental lillies, hibiscus, astilbe or rose bush.

   I did my apprenticeship with my dad who, himself, was a master weeder. Whenever the family was running around packing things up for a family outing, I knew where my dad would be waiting for us. He would be sitting on the front lawn quietly removing every dandelion, one at a time, with his forked, yellow-handled tool, making a mound of the pulled weeds. When my dad died, I remember searching in the garage for the only thing I really wanted- the yellow-handled weed remover, and then finding a place for it on the shelf of my own garage.

   Becoming a weeder was not just a way of finding a place of serenity and renewal for me. Yes, I love sitting in the sun in a garden and taking my time to make an area clean and healthy. Yes, I do really get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from seeing something look and grow healthy.

   But I have been humbled and grateful to have learned that weeding had also become my profession. In my therapy practice, working with patients, I sit and try to help them clear their own weeds. I've come to accept that they need to identify which are the weeds and which the plants. They have to have the temperament, or courage, to want to remove them and they have to know how to go deep enough to remove the root. They have to be able to use discernment to tell the difference between a weed and a growing sprout that may, if they're patient, grow into something beautiful and unique. They have to, in a real sense, become careful and skilled gardeners themselves. I think when I am helpful, it's because I can support them to know when it's time to pull and when it's time to wait. Years ago, I had been working with a woman for four years who had been continuously traumatized by sexual abuse when she was a little girl. One day in therapy, she said to me, "It's time, Jon.... It's time to confront the man who did this." I said, "Please don't." She asked why. I told her not to confront him unless she was prepared to have him deny that it had ever happened. She cried, nodded and waited for six months until she was ready.

   I sometimes think that in our culture the weeder does not hold a particular place of honor. Maybe weeding seems too slow or too primitive for our fast lives. But I know when I sit in a garden with my father's hand tool, that weeding is a good and a worthwhile way to spend one's life.

   With Love and Respect, Jon


1 Comment(s):
brent said...
Jonny, sorry but i didn't read the story. i was entirely happy to see you and ruthie. i'm not very techno savy and didn't have another way to contact you, so i thought i'd just leave a comment. as soon as i saw you both, i knew it was you. i could never forget you both nor all the time we spent together. i wonder if the people in the workshop understand how special you are? i'm glad you had a chance to meet my family, i'm very proud to show them off. this isn't coming out very organized as i'm having a hard time with so many memories coming back. i hope you'll take the time to drop me a line. love brentley
February 22, 2014 08:26:09
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