The clearing


Here’s the thing about weeding. Most of the time it lives up to its reputation as a never-ending dreaded and tedious chore. The horticultural version of whack-a-mole.  Put in a few hours, go home feeling accomplished and come back the next day to new weeds. And ignore them at your peril.

Every now and then though weeding can be gratifying, like cleaning out a closet or clearing a desktop, akin to finding order amid chaos. 

I suspected that my first dive back into my new garden plot might be like that; after all, I’d have to transform what had become a jungle-in-the-making into framed rows of clean dirt. I needed a bold game plan.

 I knew upfront that I’d be yanking everything out. Yes, the prior keeper of this plot grew lots of herbs, and I’m sure that among the dandelions and creeping greens some sage or thyme had sprouted. But I had different plans. So out they’d all come, starting with the big stuff - just like when I’m folding a mound of laundry, to make the task seem easier.

Plot 24, before.

Plot 24, before.

 After waiting days for the spring rains to stop, I found a good block of time and a blue sky to set out taming the beast.  I loaded up the wheelbarrow with an assortment of shovels, hoes, rakes and pitchforks and marched from the shed into the community space. Alone there with just my thoughts, I felt my head clear and my body heat up from the sun-tinged breeze. The quiet was intoxicating.

 I started digging, appreciating that the rains had loosened the soil, until I met the first of several roots I’d have to wrestle out of the ground.

 I found a rhythm. Dig, pull, shake off soil, toss and keep going.

 Runners know that get up a hill you take shorter steps and keep your head down, not looking too far ahead to see how much more to go. I worked with that tenacity.

 Stop once the wheelbarrow is full, I told myself.

 The first time or two I stopped, I took in a few breaths and embraced the strength and sweat I felt as I stood up straight and looked around the space.

 Just like I remembered it.

 But then the wheelbarrow started to get heavy and the trudge back towards the shed even longer. 

 What was I thinking anyway, picking a plot so far away?

Plot 24, after the clearing.

Plot 24, after the clearing.

 By round three I was in crossover territory, when the push to get through to the end takes hold.  My back was telling me otherwise, but I was not leaving until I’d cleared the plot enough to see some shape develop.

 It happened. More brown than green peeked through the surface of what began to resemble a rectangle among the weeds.  But plenty remained still to do.

 I’d take a few more spins through my new garden over the next few weeks, laying down wood chips for paths around the perimeter, edging and framing the sides, pulling more weeds, mixing in compost and building up some rows for planting.

 Around me other gardens had begun to take shape as well, some much further into the planting process with varieties of lettuce and other spring sprouts ready for the picking. Some had tamped-down hay to keep the weeds at bay. Tomato cages guarding their growth. Netting for vines to climb. Poles to hold stems straight and strong. In the common areas perennials bloomed: white, pink and coral peonies, deep red and soft yellow roses, purple and rose-colored irises.

 And tucked away outside the community space, back near the shed, amid what looked like wild weed growth in the cold frame, three brilliant red poppies reached toward the sky, a fitting salute on this Memorial Day. And a promise for a long, full summer ahead.