Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Zen of weeding

(Originally posted here on 02/22/08.)

The day improved as it lengthened into evening and the sun came out to play. Having moped around the house during the drizzly and too-cool morning, I was anxious to go outside and join the sun.

So much to do! Where should I start? I decided to do a bit of work in my neglected vegetable garden.

There's not much going on there just now. The winter greens are almost gone. A few brave sugar snap peas are struggling up their trellis. The onions and leeks are looking a little pale and need to be fed and weeded. In truth, every bed in the garden needs to be weeded, so that seemed to be a good place to start.

I decided to start on the west side of the garden and work my way east. That meant that I started with the sugar snap pea bed. I pulled weeds and propped up some of the little pea vines that had failed to grab the trellis. Immediately, I was transported to another time and place by the smell of the rich, damp dirt.

In my mind, I was once again a child on a farm in northeast Mississippi where one of my earliest memories was of the smell of freshly turned soil in spring. Soil, still damp from winter rains and full of all the microorganisms that spend their lives in it, has that wonderful, unmistakable musty fecund smell, which is almost impossible to describe, but if you have ever smelled it, you will never forget it.

As often happens, I had failed to put on my gloves and, within a few minutes of beginning my task, my hands were covered in the damp soil as I dug fingers into it to pull out the stubborn weeds. My hands soon smelled like the earth. I liked the feel of it between my fingers and under my nails. I liked the feeling of being one with the earth. I think that must be part of my DNA.

It has frequently been observed that gardening has a lot in common with meditation, and nothing seems more Zen-like to me than the act of weeding. See the weed. Pull the weed. The mind floats free and blank, focused only on the act of weeding. It is both a tiring and a restful act, and at the end, when you can survey a clean bed that only has the plants that belong there, there is satisfaction and even exhilaration.

I didn't progress very far on my weeding project today. I got one long raised bed and two shorter ones cleared. It's a start.

The most important thing is that I spent some time with the sun on my face and dirt on my hands while the three Purple Martin scouts that have so far returned to my martin houses circled and chortled their encouragement overhead. The promise of a sunny weekend stretches ahead and by the end of it, I hope to have worked my way to the eastern side of the vegetable garden. Nirvana, or at least a feeling of accomplishment.

Note: This could have been written today except that so far no Purple Martin scouts circle my yard. I'm looking for them every day, but so far there is no chortling encouragement from the sky. Where are they?

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