There is always something to do in a garden. Leaves fall, plants blow over, branches grow tangled and a myriad of small challenges seem to appear every day. This is why gardeners have green thumbs. It’s not that we have special gardening abilities; it’s because we can’t keep our hands out of our gardens. Every gardener I have ever met pinches off dead or wilted leaves from plants with their thumb and forefinger. The result is an evergreen thumb that has been colored by the pigment chlorophyll. If we have a pair of clippers available we might use those instead, but show me a gardener with perfectly clean hands and I’ll bet they have not been out in their garden today. Will Rodgers once said, “What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.” Perhaps he was right.
I find the task of thinning seedlings to be one of the most challenging of garden tasks. I am inevitably delighted by all of the happy little sprouts that have sprung up from the seeds I have sown. But experience has taught me that if allowed to grow crowed together, they will not thrive. It’s necessary to thin them out and allow enough room for each individual to grow to maturity. Sometimes there is another space in the garden to move a few but more often than not, this is the end of their run. I bless each one and thank them for the sacrifice that they are making for the benefit of those that remain.
I feel the same way about many of my ideas. I often need to select the best one to nurture rather than divide my attention among all of them. I am always grateful for the bouquet of creative thoughts, but I know that there is a better chance for something significant to grow if I focus my resources in one direction.
There is a big difference between pulling weeds and thinning out the seedlings that we have intentionally sown. A weed is an unwanted volunteer: an uninvited guest: a thief at our table; a weed has to go. Funny thing is one man’s weed is another man’s flower. I should know, I’m named after one of the most notoriously invasive specimens growing all over Scotland. To some it is a magnificent blanket of purple covering hill and valley. To others it is a noxious weed that takes over precious acres of pasture and farmland. I’m not sure how it ever became the national flower of Scotland. Perhaps they just gave up the fight and surrendered to its perseverance.
The weeds in our garden are always at the mercy of the gardeners judgement. It’s important to keep in mind that whatever we choose to keep will need space to grow and resources to flourish. It’s always best to know what you have growing before you invite it to stay. It’s up to us to decide what we will remove and what we allow to live in our garden.
from my new book, The Seventh Season: Wisdom from the Garden of Life
remember, goodness grows,