My garden is a tangled mess. Strawberries runners weave a loose web over the garden. In the holes poke up the self-seeded plants: arugula parsley, salad burnet, coriander and mustard. Patches of evening primrose and bee balm slowly crawl inwards towards the center of the garden from the outer edges they were placed on. The Sweet Cecily is moving out into the yard, its seedlings unfurling delicate ferny-leaves. Tiny purple weeds bloom everywhere. The lavender, thyme and sage plants look awfully woody and scraggly. I would trim them but the only life seems to be on the far outer branches. Only the Good King Henry looks serene, blob of green leaves ready to be picked and eaten, with no territorial ambitions.
Some years I have hesitated to weed, uncertain which plants were which and not wanting to pull up something good by mistake. Some years I have shied from my garden embarrassed about the messy tangle that it is. Some years I have simply not had much energy for doing any work. This year I am attacking the garden bravely. I’ve offered strawberry plants to strangers. I’ve dug up my plants children and given them away. I’ve even tossed big handfuls into the compost. I will clear space to plant new plants.
But I’m also going to accept my crazy messed up garden as a metaphor for my tangled up life. I don’t have to fit in boxes or rows. I’m a homeschooling mother and a bit of an intravert. I have an amateur’s interest in history and philosophy. My interest in social justice activism is finally taking root and spreading through my life. I need to put a bit more work on cooking and house cleaning again. Tending a garden and tending to my time is not all that different. Sometimes even good plants need to be offloaded to someone else so that I can put that energy they are taking up to other projects.
The different hobbies and interests compete for time but they also strengthen each other too. The history reading I’ve been doing recently strengthens my resolve on social justice issues, and my social justice interests give new meaning to the history. Reading about Tommy Douglas reminds me that health care was not inevitable but the result of determined effort and struggle. We can make change. Change can happen. One of the books I’ve just started reading Letters from Nuremberg: My father’s narrative of a quest for justice by U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd. and in his first chapter he draws a contrast between insistence that the rule of law be carried out at Nuremberg not simply revenge, and the way in which the USA is treating prisoners at Guantanamo. He points out the challenge for U.S. politicians, ever scared of upcoming elections, to stand up for rule of law and risk being painted as “weak on terrorism.” Ideas from history and politics interact like the plants in my wild, chaotic garden.