Amongst the Weeds


I am caught by the news each morning.

Even as I tell myself that I need to be spending the time in the garden,  more than an hour later, all I've done is drink my coffee and immerse myself in the day's headlines.

This morning I read an essay by Joe Walsh, a one-term Tea Party congressman, elected from Illinois in 2011. As a conservative opinion writer, he is advocating that there be a candidate from the “right” to challenge President Trump in a primary. He took his Republican colleagues to task for not holding true to Republican values, including fiscal prudence.

I was hopeful when I read the article that the invitation was for respectful dialogue about policy issues and not personal attacks and extreme ideology.

And then I read some of the comments. I was struck that the people who commented were not necessarily hopeful.  Some were pessimistic.  (It’s too strong of an ideology that resonates with great numbers of people).  Some were pragmatic. (If you want a change, support the Democratic challenger).  And, I admit, my own hope diminished a bit in terms of whether we, as a community of communities, can find any common ground.

After the mini-crossword and the easy Sudoku, I finally found my way to the garden and to the strawberries that are ripening amongst the weeds.

The other morning when chatting with colleague Amanda, I commented that I was finally getting some strawberries. I told her that for years and in the beginning of the season, they were too fragile and there wasn’t much to pick. I told her I had weeded the patch and had not mulched. The weeds, I added, were getting really dense.

“I just let them grow with the weeds,” she tells me.  “It disguises the berries and protects them.”

And she’s right. The ripe strawberries were hard to find amongst the weeds.

Despite Amanda’s advice and experience, I pulled some weeds from around the plants and made plans to do more weeding this weekend.

For weeks now, I have watched these weeds grow and lamented that I did not mulch the plants. I did not know that the weeds would grow in so much. I am frustrated each time I realize I have to start over again.

And now, I come to my own conclusions. It might be fine that Amanda’s strawberries are growing well amongst the weeds; in my mind, my berries are being choked.

This progression: that I weeded, did not mulch and now need to either leave the weeds in place or once again rout them out and mulch, reminds me of my experience with the morning news. I think about how we might have weeded before, but we have the task to do again: We need to reestablish civic dialogue. We need to reach across our divides, get out of the weeds, as it were, and have a diverse dialog about the issues that face us.

We come from different experiences. 

While Amanda’s strawberries grow fine—she says she uses mushroom dirt from a local purveyor and holds her fingers to the size of a half-dollar to show me how big her berries are—my berries need a bit of weeding.

The garden helps with this sort of reflection. Here in the Upper Delaware, we are blessed to be able to be out in nature: to share the wisdom of our gardens and to let them create metaphors for the serious disconnections that we face.

And Amanda and I, we talk about our experiences—different, but producing the sweet summertime fruit all the same—with strawberries in the morning as we check in.

If only it was so easy to reach across differences.


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