I love working in my garden. There’s something wonderful about getting my hands deep into the rich loamy soil that feels so good, centered, right. The seeming miracle of each spring when fresh new life bursts through the detritus of last year’s bounty always surprises and amazes me.
What is the most difficult part for me in working in the garden is weeding, making the decision to cut back on the day lilies or the ferns so that other plants can thrive as well. I am getting much better at this, but it remains a struggle.
I am a collector by nature so the process of getting rid of things is challenging. I want it all to prosper and grow, but it won’t if left to its own organic evolution. There is a sense of control and organization that needs to be imposed so that there is enough room and nutrition for all.
When JB said that this morning he was going to dig out some of the day lilies in the center of our yard so that the poppies and irises would not be choked out, my internal reaction was NO. I literally talked myself through the rationale for this and slowly agreed that it was a good idea.
Years ago, when we first moved into our house, I spent a summer documenting everything that was growing in our yard. It was a task that only an urban mind could have come up with because the amount and kinds of plants growing in even an inch of space would be nearly impossible to record. What I discovered was that plants, that many people consider as weeds, had actual stories, myths, historical significance, medicinal properties—that plants were only weeds when they were unwanted by the gardener.
I also really like working with kids. There can be an energy and spirit that is like nothing else. Interchanges can be invigorating. Their animated curiosity can take all of us in directions unplanned for. There’s something about this engagement that feels so good, centered, right. The bounty from this engagement is not always obvious (especially on days when interchanges and energy are not so spirited); the harvest may take many, many years after work with many different gardeners, but the promise is real.
The weeding is different in the classroom. Without sounding too corny or trite, sometimes I need to weed away a lot of behavior that distracts me from really seeing a student as they really are. Sometimes I need to weed any unrealistic expectations to make more room for a student to successfully create and meet their own. Sometimes I need to weed away my taking matters too personally so that students, colleagues, and I can focus on the real issues. Sometimes I need to employ some sense of control and organization so that there is room and nutrition enough for all. I always need to make room for my students’ personal voices to thrive and weed away all that gets in the way of that expression.
But it’s hard for me to discard and throw away. It’s hard for me to toss things out. I am convinced that even the weakest plants have something important to offer. I make sure to make room for them too. Sometimes it may look a bit wild in my classroom (as it is wild in my garden as well), but the potential for harvest overrides all.