Behind my house is a patch of ground that used to be a garden, a raised bed. Our old dogs left it alone; the new ones persisted in digging it up. So I took down the boards, shoveled out the dirt, flattened it. I meant to plant grass there last fall, before the frost set in, but I didn’t. I never got around to it.
Then, in April, this happened:
Buttercups. Hundreds of them. Have faith and they come of their own accord — or don’t have faith. I didn’t; I assumed I’d have to plant something there this spring, do something or else face a rectangle of mud all summer. But there they are. Grace.
This year’s garden, the one we tend, looks fine as well, and it is producing grandly. But it is a struggle. The weeds invade from the woods, from behind the fence, from underneath. They tangle at the base of the peas, sprout up a lawn between the onions, threaten to choke out the chard. The honeysuckle — oh, it’s honey on the tongue, but it destroys everything in its path: sends its woody vines beneath the earth, weaves through the fence, masses thickly at the top, shades out our plants. Cut its shoots and it returns in a month. Cut its vines and it returns in a season. It must be torn out by the roots, and even then it will find its way back, because its roots are as deep as the woods themselves.
So I tear it out where I can — where tearing it out won’t upheave the peas, the tomatoes, the cucumbers; but too often it does, and what purpose is there in tearing out the weeds only to ruin the vegetables? So I tear it out where I can, with care, and I’m glad to see it gone. We have to weed if we’re going to eat.
But it’s not as if I exult in its death. I’m not going to sing hymns of praise for the demise of an invasive, destructive weed. God made the honeysuckle, too, and all the rest: it’s only our cultivation that made them weeds. There’s no joy in their loss, only hard necessity.
We should be thankful for the tomatoes, though. And for the buttercups, where we’ve had the good sense to leave well enough alone.