Monday, September 21, 2015

In Praise of Autumn Weeds

Back in the summer of 2014, I had a dreamy garden. Bandwidth and I hacked through the Tennessee clay, planted hundreds of flowers, and hauled tons of mulch. We weeded every morning and watered at dusk. 

By autumn, I should have seen what was coming, but I was giddy with nature gone wild--and in my own cultivated yard. A metaphor? Surely, but I didn't notice.

Winter brought a polar blast, along with household accidents and heartbreak. Even before spring arrived, my garden had sprouted weeds, each one spiked with 5-inch thorns. 
So be it. 
I did not have time or heart to garden: my dying dog needed to be in a quiet house, no stress or temperature extremes. A weedy garden was the last thing on my mind. 

One day my husband was working at the hospital, and a nurse told him that her little boys cried every time they drove by our house. They thought it was haunted. In a way, I guess it was.
Pricked by the comment, the menfolk attacked the weeds with sprays, but the thorns flourished. My husband put on heavy gloves and tried to yank the plants out of the ground, but they wouldn't budge. He gave up. How could last summer's prettiness give way to monsters? By the end of May, we were engulfed by exotic tendrils and alien pods. These were Jack in the Beanstalk weeds, strayed from an evil fairy tale.

Me, I'm perverse: I thought they were interesting and lovely. I pulled out my field guides and tried to learn about the extravagant wildness in my yard. When time permitted, I gathered ivy and grape vines, using them in photo shoots.

If you think about it, weeds offer better advice than a self help book. Weeds are survivors. They take root in the most inhospitable places and flourish. They seem to know they aren't wanted, and they fortify themselves with thorns and endless roots.

Weeds remind me to be courageous, steadfast, and irrepressible. 

Weeds are tough and make no apologies.

Weeds are fearless. 
They aren't fussy or picky. 
And they are adaptable, flourishing in all conditions--shade, sunlight, rain, drought. Cold temperatures stop them, but only for a while. Only until spring.

Toughness is an admirable quality in humans, too, just as long as strength is tempered by grace; just as long as we honor boundaries and never, ever forget to be kind.

"One is tempted to say that the most human plants, after all, are the weeds." 
 --John Burroughs, Pepacton, 1881

"Free weeds. U pick 'em."
--Author Unknown

Photos by Tyler West and Michael Lee West

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  1. Well, you're sure looking at the glass as half full, I have to hand you that. I hope you're doing better. I've been thinking about you often.

  2. Weeds are true survivors. We have quite a few here at the farmette.

  3. Love the Fall vignettes - so pretty.
    I understand. I have put almost no effort into taking care of my courtyard this Spring/Summer. Here it is Fall and I hope to just get it cleaned up and the persistent weeds pulled. Maybe next year.
    Enjoy your evening.

  4. Your Fall photo scenes are beautiful! We actually "weed scape" in the backyard 2 acres... I like it better than freshly mowed green grass and it is easier to manage! Nice to have a post from you... You've been gone a little while. Hope all is well!

  5. I love this post. My Joe had hip replacement surgery this summer so I was doing double duty, taking care of him, the inside of the house and the outside. I learned to REALLY appreciate all he does! Many weeds sprouted and it seemed a full time job keeping up with them! Your photos are beautiful!!!!

  6. Beautiful post even with the weeds. Love all your Fall decor. Even my weeds are going strong here in the drought. But my poor roses and plants are struggling. I have lost all interest in them, as it's to darn hot to even try and take water back and forth.
    Your photo's were great. Have a super week,.

  7. Good to see your shining face! I just noticed how many weeds have invaded my gardens. Seems like life is that way isn't it!

  8. Beautiful photos and writing. Makes me look at Fall blooms differently.


  9. Very tender post.
    I love it and you look wonderful.

  10. Lovely photos! I think we can all relate to times in our own lives we have to let some things go as other things are more important!

  11. Blessings to you.
    Around here the weeds grow wild and quickly get out of hand.
    I look at our poor lawn and know that it will be a few more years before we plant a new one.
    Other things are a priority right now.
    Free weeds!
    Will mail,

  12. Lovely ! This was just what I needed today.....Thankyou !

  13. What an amazing post, Michael!! I have needed to be as the weeds the past few years. I welcomed the resilience that gave me. I can only hope the grace was evident as well.

  14. Weeds. The true survivors! Lovely pics!

  15. I love the photo of you holding the oakleaf hydrangea blooms! I'll never think of weeds the same way again :)

  16. You have a gift ! Your expressive words are fantastic! You should consider being a writer! Great fiction novels!

  17. I often have this thought about weeds. They are so much like people, thriving in places they shouldn't and surviving against all odds. And yet, we've declared war on them. I've made peace with weeds in my yard, weeds are needed for a complete ecosystem.

    So sorry to hear about the passing of Zap. Definitely gave me a lump in my throat while looking at my own dogs. Our time with them is so short, but so beautiful. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I hope the loss is getting easier with time.

  18. I'm glad to see you posting again, Michael. I've been worried about you and thought of you often.

    I embrace the weeds in my back yard now, but I used to have visions of a groomed lot. The front yard will have to do ;)


  19. loved this, so up my garden alley, so may fab pics, but the best is YOU!


  20. Fall is gorgeous in your neck of the woods. I love it in Ky I am sure it is about the same there. Such a pretty post! Thanks for joining Home Sweet Home!