I never did like to get dirty. Especially under my fingernails.
I dig a little deeper in the clay, churning the topsoil up to pat around the plant that the Gardner just finished planting. I pluck a few small weeds around it, hoping they won’t hinder its growth.
Looking in disgust at my fingernails again, I stand up from kneeling and dust off hands first, then knees. The Gardner is working a few steps away–harder than I, as usual. I take in the sight for a moment, in awe of the vast improvements this garden had seen. You can’t tell much difference day to day usually, but when I think back to a year ago…two years ago…the progress is remarkable. We still had a long way to go for sure, but the Gardner’s steady presence left no doubt that the work was going to get finished. That was an encouraging thought on a hard day like today.
I walked over to a familiar weedy patch, dropped to my sore knees again, and started pulling away. After a moment, I heard a voice boom over my shoulders, “You know, sooner or later we’re gonna have to get to that one.” He pointed at the tall, burly weed just a few feet away from where I was working.
“That one?” I answered. “No, I’ve tried to pull up that one before…its much too sturdy. And besides, its so old, it kind of just blends in with the garden, you know? Gives it a bit of character.”
“It doesn’t belong in my garden,” he responded, gently but firmly. “It cannot stay forever.”
His look cut me a bit, and it hit me how silly I was to imply that He was not strong enough to pull it. I knew better but I sometimes forgot. Regardless, I still did not want to part with that particular weed. “Okay, sure. We’ll get to it one day–but for now I’m just gonna clean up around it.” I continued to crawl and pluck.
He meanered my way, but I kept my attention on my work. When he got to the weed, he gave the trunk a sturdy kick, and seeds from its branches fell all around me. Three of them landed beside my hands in the dirt. “You know where all those little weeds are coming from, right? Please don’t tell me you’re oblivious to that fact. Day in, and day out, you crawl around here plucking those little seedlings, and by the end of the day they are sprouting again. Wouldn’t you rather cure the disease than treat the symptoms?”
He looked at me, enduring and patient. I sat back on my boots and stared at the weed, withered and old. The thing about that weed, you see, was that it had always been there. It was a constant–a given–as sure fire as the very dirt beneath it. Though I knew it to be a weed, its presence gave me a strange sort of comfort. I had given up on killing it long ago and begun to see it as a worthwhile part of my garden. As though it had a rightful place among the bushes, crops and flowers. I felt like killing it would be killing a part of me.
“It can’t stay in my garden forever,” he repeated. He bent over and placed his right hand and the bottom of the stalk, as if he was preparing to yank it out. “What’s it gonna be? Do you want me to kill it, or do you want to keep crawling around every day in its shade, plucking its fruit?”
I sat in silence, unable to answer. “You know,” he continued, “you could do an awful lot of planting in the time that you waste in this corner every day.”
I knew it. He was so right. But I just couldn’t watch it die. Not today.
“Tomorrow–we’ll do it tomorrow.” I finally answered, cringing on the inside. He sighed deep in his chest, let go of the stalk and stood up. Pursed lips and one last look at me, then he began walking back to his former project. Oh, how I hated that disappointed look in his eyes! But at least he was walking away, and I did not have to watch it die today. Tomorrow–tomorrow I would be ready for it.
He paused just a few yards away and turned my way, a confused look in his eyes. “I’m starting to lose count of the tomorrows.”