Surrounding my new rural house is a rock garden that stretches 30 metres long and is 10 metres deep.
It’s steep and rugged and has not been tended to for several years. The task of pulling established grasses, invasive ground cover and weeds from this huge space seemed a monumental task.
I began the process inch by inch and because we were entering the rainy season, the work was damp but the plants were relatively easy to pull. There is no choice but to sit at this task because the grade is sharp and some of the plants grew close to the ground.
One of my considerations when attempting to weed this wall was the risk of eroding the precious soil that was there. To avoid erosion, I had to concede what I first thought was defeat to some plants that I did not care for. As luck would have it, there were bunch grasses that had extraordinary root systems. I left them, a compromise, because they serve an important purpose in the stability of the hill.
As I pulled away the more invasive plants I exposed deep, rich soil. The neglect of the previous years allowed for the soil to rebuild. An earthy perfume filled the air and worms were abundant. The moss protected the soil from heat and the tender shoots from frost. Fallen branches were decaying in their own self-made hugelkultur (a way of making garden beds from rotting wood), while small birds were dancing around me as I worked, waiting for the seeds and insects that were now exposed. A dozen quail showed up in their fashionable headdress and got busy scratching at the surface. I’ll leave them to it as they will have that ground perfectly groomed for planting in a month.
- More with Brenda Schoepp: Does the wall need to be repaired before being repainted?
The balance under the decay was tremendous. I knew that slope would house a garden and flowers without much coaxing and I began to look at the rock hill from a perspective of gratitude.
I was very grateful for the previous neglect. It gave that patch of land time to decompose and to heal. I was thankful for the stubborn bits that refused to be removed because they hold fast the earth and provide some diversity. And the possible in that space for food and flowers humbled me. I could see beyond the work to the harvest.
Wisely, I found a life lesson in the unearthing of that monster of a rock garden.
Those deeply rooted grasses that were truly just a bother just might have been a reflection of my deeply rooted and stubborn self. No wonder I don’t like bad weeds — we may be too much alike!
I thought about how in our lives we also must live and work with those who just are not nice or seemingly weak contributors.
We may see them as stealing from the beauty of the day. It may be wise to consider that without them, there is a severe lack of diversity and challenge in our lives, which can keep things interesting. We may not, in our rush to avoid or change those individuals, have taken the time to really think about their purpose.
After all, the non-flowering plant on the rock hill served a purpose. The one who does not fit our definition of beauty might be rough looking yet provide stability, shade and refuge when we start to slide down the slope. And those less desirable may just bloom if tended to.
I mentioned that this was an inch-by-inch task, so heavy was the vegetative trash (jungle, as a friend called it). I chose to carefully pull the roots rather than sever them and was always amazed at the end of the day how far I had gone.
And so it is with the journey as we begin another year.
Our days may seem overwhelming, tedious, and frustrating at times. There will be people and events so deeply rooted that they will not be changed — even when we think they should. It may be slow going and take time to understand another individual, and even longer to nurture them.
They are part of our societal ecosystem. Leave them to their purpose and focus on yours.
In this story of the rock garden, my purpose in weeding the hill was not to destroy it or have some sort of conformed garden space typical of urban centres.
My purpose was to discover it, to breathe it in and to know its mystery. My purpose was to coexist with the hill and the creatures that had made it home. The experience was meant to unfold and to teach me what I could and could not grow there.
As ugly and daunting as that jungle appeared when I started, I remained patient and curious as to the treasures that it held.
The weedy hill had purpose in reminding me of acceptance and patience and when the rains came, the rock garden did not disappoint. Those roots held fast through the torrents — just as those we nurture and accept will hold us fast through the storms of our lives.