It’s not that I hate weeding. It’s that over the course of a growing season, the natural grasses that tend to grow between my perennials give the garden a more natural, softer, more inviting look. I tell myself it’s a matter of allowing nature to do what nature does and to enjoy the process. It’s letting go.
But weeding can have an important part to play in gardening, especially vegetable gardening. Weeds have a tendency to take nutrients away from vegetables that need to mature and ripen over the course of a growing season. Without weeding, crops don’t produce as well or in the quality one might expect.
This year was the raised bed’s turn to teach me a lesson. I had allowed mint to creep into the vegetable patch because I had thought it would be good for butterflies and other pollinators. I figured, “Hey! I can use the mint for tea and for cooking, it won’t be so bad!” Until late in the year when I realized not only had the mint taken over the entire vegetable patch: it was preventing lots of my vegetables from maturing, or even producing, because it had overtaken so much of the soil.
I’m finding as I mature and grow in my Catholic faith, and identity (not only as a Catholic, but as a Franciscan), that elements of my life seem sweet! There are certain characteristics of my behavior, certain choices, certain behaviors, that initially give me great pleasure. Over the Christmas season it’s been baking. Having engaged in a wonderful relationship with an amazing man, there’s also the realization that being a foodie in the company of another foodie makes eating more exciting. But it also can take over the garden, in a manner of speaking.
Confession isn’t so much a sacrament (although it is in the tradition that I practice) as it is a way of life. It’s about being vigilant, knowing that certain things can be beneficial in balance, but also recognizing that unchecked, like mint, these behaviors can overtake one’s life and begin to choke out the benefits of other behaviors, other qualities. There’s a reason the catechism teaches us to make a good confession before receiving the Eucharist: it draws from what Christ taught about leaving your offering, making peace with your brother, and returning to make the offering once this is done.
God does work as a healer, but only if we are willing to do the leg work and make the effort, take the exertion it takes, to apply the remedy. In the twelve step programs, it comes to the idea of the 10th step: Continuing to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitting it.
The Franciscan way of living challenges me daily to let go of these little things, the little pebbles as I like to call them, the behaviors and attitudes that although safe, are actually detrimental to my vocation. These are the things which get in the way of poverty, because like money, like physical things, the cherished ways of thinking and behaving are owned by us. They are sweet like mint, they appear beautiful above the surface of the soil, but deep within us they spread roots that crop up plants (and negative behaviors) in greater and greater numbers.
So this fall, I pulled up almost all the mint that I could. I suspect there are little bits and pieces of the roots still in the soil, so I will have to be continually vigilant in my weeding if I want my garden to be productive. It’s not that mint isn’t good! It’s that mint is best grown in a container where roots will not spread.