Weeds – A Junian* Perspective

*This is not a typo. A “Junian” (June-ee-in) blog is an opinion piece by Juno, the dog blogger and has nothing to do with the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung    

Today’s blog is another instalment of our growing One-Word blog series. For another, visit Cars. More to come.

A man walks into the house, tosses his dirty shoes across the mud room and calls to his wife: “I am in arthritic Shock.” Sore, stiff and aching from his recent struggle with tenacious weeds, which puncture the level cement of his household driveway, he picks and pulls at lush green plants which fight back defiantly. Day by day he works steadily at half-hour intervals, in a campaign the neighbours call “Now the Green Blade Riseth.”

As he surgically exposes deep seated roots, the weeds shout back at him, “you let us grow here, so leave us alone. We claim the right to remain.”  Legal scholars have yet to consider the matter, but an argument can be made in groundskeeping parlance  that once allowed, weeds may in fact possess a right to life and occupation similar to the right of way guaranteed to British amblers prior to the Tragedy of the Commons. In a similar fashion, and in the words of Esmond Sharpe, who lived opposite Ken and Kathie on Murray Road in Sooke in the 1990s, “if there is a lot of it, it is likely a weed; and if it is a nice colour, let it stay.”

Legalities and tasteful practices aside, Ken has never faced such vigorous resistance, though he has intervened sooner in previous years. He got lazy this year, and the weather was wetter so he had many excuses not to weed, a lack of diligence and discipline which now has consequences. So the weeds had time and opportunity to proliferate, to grow extensive and sturdy root systems, and to grasp the earth furiously and defiantly. Eventually, and quickly, the beautiful green leaves broke through the cement crust to create a sunbaked driveway paradise.

Day after day, Ken addresses the weeds, respectfully. “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you” he says. “Right” one weed tells another. “Try those pliers on yourself and get back to us.” Yes Ken does employ a particular gardener’s arsenal. First he picks up a weed scraper which Kathie says will do most of the work. That is true; if you simply want to snatch the superstructure but not remove or disempower the root. For the root, one must dig deeper with the trowel. When the trowel is useless, then get out the pliers.

It’s like a visit to the dentist. “That tooth has to come out” she smiles as she reaches for extractor pliers. In spy novels, pliers are a tool of torture. More generally, pliers allow the user to exert maximum pressure on a small section of an object for the purposes of either adjustment or removal. With garden weeds, the task is removal; and when removal is successful Ken smiles. What appeared to be a small piece of plant is in fact the topmost part of a root system often several inches in length and at least 1/8” in diameter. To feel the weed lose its grip, for it to give way, to surrender, to a combination of technology and strength, well, such a victory is a most satisfying  feeling.

As I watch from afar, with my nose-to-the-ground worldview I do wonder what the fuss is all about. For me, the weeds contain elements of love, life, and community. They remind me who has visited and who has departed. They provide a welcome for species smaller and different than myself, who are my relations and our relations in no small way. Such relations are life forms, equal in value and each beautiful in their own way. I am told that they will do damage to the driveway, but the driveway did damage to what was there before, creation’s morning and evening breath. As the driveway continues to settle and sink, nature has not only found its voice of complaint. It has discovered revenge.

I am sorry Ken struggles so. I am glad he refuses to use noxious chemicals to do the work for him. At the very least, weeding is a necessary exercise. At best, it is a spiritual experience, where he can consider the use or abuse of force for a particular good. The question remains, however, is what he now does, actually “good?”

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