Never mind the weeds
Last night, I put the girls to bed before the sun set and headed out to the garden.
It had been an entire week since I had a chance to dig in that dirt in an attempt manage my little crop of vegetables, and I could see from my window all the rain gave the weeds permission to set up shop.
But I didn’t mind. When I first moved back to the ranch, I made myself a list of the things I wanted back in my life after spending a few years thinking I didn’t know who I was. At the top of that list was a simple little promise to keep a garden. And because it was quiet last night as I kicked up the smell of damp dirt, I had a moment to remember why.
When I was a kid, probably close to 10 or 11, I entered my garden into the county fair. Because of the timing of our growing season, I didn’t have any vegetables to present, so I decided I would document the process. I can’t remember every detail of the exhibit or what we grew that summer, but I do remember I put together a picture book with some progress photos.
I recall one photo I was particularly proud of that featured 10-year-old me in a T-shirt, ponytail and jeans standing confidently next to our little corn crop. The idea was to show the height of our stocks to the judge in a book that, between the shiny Kodak photos pasted on construction paper and the sentences spelled out in wavering Sharpie lines, told less of a story of a master gardener and more of a kid who liked a project.
I was pretty certain the judge would be impressed, which made it that much harder to process the sinking feeling when he pointed to that picture and asked, “What’s that there?”
I moved my eyes from my beautiful corn stocks down to the border of the garden where the judge placed his finger.
“Weeds,” I said as my face flushed.
Weeds that the judge suddenly made me notice for the first time in all of the hours I spent digging in that dirt and documenting my progress.
Weeds my dad never pointed out to me. Weeds my mom never mentioned. Weeds that earned me a red ribbon instead of the coveted blue.
Weeds that today remind me of the vulnerability of my optimistic nature. That I could look right past that snarl of crabgrass and creeping Jenny and only see the promise of grilled corn on the cob or the snap of a fresh pea says something about the innocence and wonder of childhood, a person I become again when I’m standing in a garden I made grow.
And I’m thankful for that judge. He did his job and I was better for it. And on days the burdens in my life grow in too close, threatening to steal my rain and choke out the sun, I know I can chop them down if I need to.
But sometimes I like that it’s in me to say never mind the weeds. Better things are coming with a little sunshine and rain.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.