In the weeds
For the past two weeks, I have been cleaning and helping with the gardening at my lovely workaway in the mountains of Shizuoka prefecture. For those unfamiliar with the concept of 'workaway', it is essentially volunteering (helping out at someone's farm, for example) in exchange for food and somewhere to sleep.
One of my main garden tasks has been to weed the stone wall that lies in front of the house, alone the road. The task seemed easy enough but my attention soon wandered. Among all the pretty plants to keep alive and nourish, there were plenty of weeds to pull. As I pulled and pulled at the weeds I began to see a metaphor in nestled between the stones...
Although the weeds are not meant to grow in this wall, in seems a good a place as any for them. Clearly this environment is favourable for growing intended plants, so the weeds opt for it as their home too.
The wall is long and needs regular attention to keep the weeds at bay, much like our minds or our lives. Our lives are rich enough to support our ourselves, our relationships with our families and friends, colleagues. But they are also rich enough to allow some weeds to thrive, those people often described as 'toxic' by clickbait articles about terrible 'friends' or those noxious thoughts we allow to fester (you're too fat, be nicer, be happier)...
There are many different types of weeds on this wall... Some disguise themselves beneath the foliage of the permissible plants while other simply rest in a gap between the stones with only superficial roots. Some have deep root systems in the garden bed below that need extra attention to ensure a complete extraction.
Others have seductive purple flowers that protest against the inevitable pull or make false promises of four-leaf clovers. Some show signs of a struggle and only the root base remains, forever part of the wall but impossible to remove without complete disassembly.
The most stubborn is a vine that grows between the stones, intertwining itself in a seemingly infinite cable from the garden bed above all the way to the one below. This weed will never be completely eradicated as it hides its roots deep in the crevices of the stones...
Just like this vine, there are people in our lives deemed noxious, yet they have become such a part of the structure of or lives that despite our best efforts to wrench them from our stones, their roots lie deep beneath our facades and we may yet welcome them again to sprout. This vine could also just as easily represent a memory or experience that has become part of us, yet it's not something we like to keep on show...
Although different to the vine, but a weed all the same, is a lovely little heart-shaped leaf that sits gently in amongst the cracks, often accompanied by a burgundy clover that sprouts the occasional yellow flower. These weeds remind me most of those little damaging thoughts and attitudes that so often appear in my mind (maybe yours too!) that I know are easy enough to ignore, yet they're there regardless. It might be that I'm beating myself up about a mistake, or thinking I need to be fitter or that I should be more successful by now. These small thoughts build up and sometimes become overwhelming, just like how these weeds, as small as they are, can build up and seemingly engulf the wall.
I've spent many hours up close to this wall that when I close my eyes all I can see is weeds between the cracks. But when I step back once my work is done and see the wall clearing up, I feel this meditation working to clear my mind as well. I can see the beautiful plants to nurture, just like our positive relationships and attitudes towards ourselves and others. I can see the large plum tree watching over everything, like that friend you sometimes forget about when you're stuck in the weeds but who is steadfastly sticking by you waiting patiently for your appreciation once again.
Weeding them from this wall has reminded me of the importance of regular maintenance of our lives and minds, ensuring we foster those positive things and not just ignore the negative things, but actively work to minimise or remove them. It also reminds me that this task is ongoing and will need regular attention as I'm sure the weeds will return at any rate.
And finally, I have learned to appreciate the value in working with my hands to achieve something and I will seek to make this a part of my life in the future.