We have something of an informal gardening club in our extended neighborhood. There are no scheduled meetings. No one keeps track of who gave what to whom or when—nor do we track whether we are exchanging a medicine-bottle full of saved seeds, a shovel with flowering rhizomes, egg-carton grown seedlings or some recently separated tubers, which had to be split due to overcrowding. In our neighborhood there is a free flow of thingsglowing, flowering or fruiting. We exchange the plants and seeds we love to cultivate.
A “weed” has been described as a plant that grows where someone does not want it to grow, which in my experience is pretty much true. A lot of what we term “weeds” also has to do with how useful a specific plant is to us as human beings. In terms of categorization, I like to imagine that somewhere in a person’s brainstem there is a little room, where a singular, primordial agent sits with a green visor and a nineteenth-century bank clerk’s cuffs sorting things of this world into overly simplistic categories labelled, “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong.” And, we need to remember that these designations tend to come about as a result of our personal experiences, me-based opinions (from who knows where) and impressions which we have taken on as a result of our society’s or culture’s molding influences.
Next garden day. Next garden channel. An older neighbor came over recently to invite me on a short walking tour to look at everything in bloom. Her granddaughter tagged along. Neither of us were really following the young girl’s activities closely, as she skipped along our quiet streets beside us and, then, otherwise trailed politely behind so we could talk.
Then, as we stopped near a particularly amazing garden location, the woman’s granddaughter came forward, thrusting her arm out toward me.
The young girls heart was wide open. She had entered the enchanted, “green land” of plants. In a very short time, the girl had amassed a bouquet of beautifully arranged dandelions, forming a perfect umbrella in form and of singular color. With her outstretched arm, extended in my direction, she said very simply, “These are for you.”
As I reached for the flowers, the girl’s well-meaning grandmother, bent upon teaching her social etiquette, gently smacked the girl’s hand and stated emphatically, “Those are ugly. She doesn’t want those. They are weeds.”
The dandelions fell, scattering across the sidewalk. I saw the girl’s heart close. I watched bewilderment take hold of her emotionally, as the young girl’s face flushed red.
I would like to report that I said or did something to save the day—or at the very least the moment. The abrupt shock of the exchange rendered me mute, as did my deep fear of offending the girl’s grandmother. All I can hope is that the sunshine, held in that perfect act of innocent generosity and present in the bouquet of yellow flowers that day, will return to that girl’s pure heart…someday.