I had scribbled this down in my notebook a full week before it all clicked. Our friends Mickey and Kellie visited the farm on Memorial Day, and together with my sister Angela and brother Philip we all luxuriated in some pretty great conversation. As the golden hour grew purple and the honeybees were going to bed, we explored the vegetable garden together. I was pulling errant weeds, and Kellie asked how to tell the weeds from the plants. Our visit was nearing an end, so I just tried to answer briefly. You know that feeling when starting a brand new conversation would have been too much? But she and I had shared thoughtful vibrations about so many other things, how I wished to explore this with her that night!
Private note: This has both of my grandfathers wrapped up in its sentences: My paternal Grandpa Dunaway who was a sharp-witted, light-hearted writer and has always been my personal Will Rogers (also son to Papa Joe the slightly famous beekeeper), and my maternal Grandpa Rex, who you know by now was the world’s best gardening mentor and given to much puttering in exactly his own style.
bare-handed & going by feel
Assuming all basic safety from garter snakes, burrowing frogs, and other deadly creatures, the best way to pull weeds is bare-handed. After a brief re-acquaintance between the inner edge of the forefinger, the first pad of the thumb, and the exact dimensions of every upwardly mobile green thing in the garden, the task becomes commonplace, an easy old dance, even more familiar (and I will say more useful) than riding a bike.
The fuzzy, round barrel chest of a cucumber vine is easy to distinguish from the skinny weeds growing thick against it, though the weeds are also fuzzy. Another fuzzy-stemmed neighbor, the tomato plant (blunt and wounded thanks to a llama without borders) has a somewhat squared off base, and is woodier. Alpha and well rooted. Vastly different except for the green and the fuzz.
The gardener should be able to go at the task with eyes closed, flicking gingerly from one thread of life to the next, deciding which can stay and which should be plucked out. Just a swift, underhanded twist of that well informed forefinger, and the cooperating palm is filled with chlorophyll and potential energy, one tiny decision at a time.
If, in a fit of momentum, the gardener grazes too near a bed of arugula, crushing a few leaves or maybe even uprooting a thread like seedling or two, then the sharp, peppery fragrance will announce the misstep quickly. A friendly alarm to redirect, so that no more than a trace of food is lost. And even that bit of green will find its way to a happy chicken’s belly.
This is one of my favorite things about easy gardening moments. Pulling weeds bare handed and getting really up close and personal with every shape and texture, usually with my eyes closed.
And it points gently to so many Universal messages I have been receiving lately. Messages about being quiet, going about my work more privately, relaxing into the moment so much that I can keep moving with my eyes closed. Trust and steady movement, knowing that nothing is wasted. Believing that every detail in this complex life is beautiful and useful. Acknowledging that as different as I feel from people near me, we have some things in common.
Most of all, the message that it’s okay to operate by instinct once you are informed and practiced. That is exciting.
I love you and miss you Grandpa Dunaway, I love you and miss you Grandpa Rex, and I love you too Kellie. I am so happy to know you better and better.
Go by feel and trust in Love