Monday, August 19, 2013

Meditation While Weeding with the Chickens

Many harried people I know seem to answer requests and invitations with a breathless, “I can't; I have too much to do.” But have you ever noticed that the most productive people you know are often both busier and calmer than the rest of us? I think this is because they are often visionary – they can picture a project completed – and, in an organized, deliberate manner, they get things done.

By contrast, the first group may get overwhelmed by the immensity of an endeavor. I often fit in this group. We don't know where to start so we don't, or we start and then give up, leaving behind the detritus of several abandoned hobbies and projects. The other population is more dogged. They aren't deterred by the immensity of an effort. So they start. They slog on through, like untwisting and unknotting a ball of twine that others might toss aside in frustration.

My husband is in this latter category. Some of his long term projects have been so daunting to me that I would never have embarked on them, but he did, and, not surprisingly, has accomplished many more things over the years than most people I know, one task, one degree, one license, one language at a time. 

I thought about the difference between us the other day as I stared in dismay at all the weeds in my yard. (We don't really have a lawn. We just have short weeds.) I realized that they would only spread and get worse, that they bothered me, and certainly nobody else would address them. So finally, one lovely afternoon, I sat down on a soft patch of ground in one section thick with dandelions. I didn't say that I would weed all of our acreage or even that I would start something big. I just said, “I'll weed this area.”

The work party assembles 
The chickens joined me and we spent a pleasant hour in the sun, digging in the dirt, with a light breeze keeping the mosquitoes at bay. It was satisfying to shove the tool into the ground next to the leaves, wrench it around in a conical fashion to cut the strong tap root as well as the skinny side roots and yank up the whole ball. One out. Two. Three. Timing was good, I hoped, because the adjacent grass was setting seeds, and maybe this little patch of exposed soil would be a receptive spot when the wind blew that way. Perhaps, foot by foot, a grassy lawn could spread. My pile of dandelion leaves and roots piled up high enough that I rolled over the wheelbarrow. “I'll just do a few more,” I thought. Another hour passed and I was surprised to find the wheelbarrow almost full. I stood up and surveyed my work, pleased with the result. “That's wasn't so bad,” I realized. “Look how much is cleared.”

Since our rabbits LOVE dandelions (even more than fireweed, fern, and raspberry leaves), I delivered an enormous banquet that they demolished by the next morning. It was fun to watch them chow down on something I had labored to eradicate. One's trash is another's treasure.

That night, it rained, softening the earth.

Ah," I thought. "Weeding will be even easier. I'll do a little more.”

After the yard dried up, the chickens and I moved onto an adjacent patch in which the broad leaves of dandelions, dock, and plantains deterred grass seeds from finding a future home. In such a bit-by-bit fashion, I scooted around on my butt in the front yard, near the flower garden, the rock lined fire pit, the front porch and dock, stabbing, circling, yanking, and tossing one whorl of leaves after another. An hour or two one afternoon. Another. These periods were so pleasant that I came to look forward to them. I was sitting in a lovely place that I was making healthier and prettier. I was reducing something that bugged me, and next spring, I would not only save myself the work but enjoy the fruits of my labors.

 In Alaska, every opportunity is brief. Pretty soon, the weather will change and I'd have more compelling seasonal issues to address. But just for today, “Come on ladies,” I call to the hens with enthusiasm, “Let's go weeding.”

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