A few days ago you would have seen me pulling up grass on someone else’s property. What! How rude! How intrusive! Well, here is the backstory.
In the fall, a homeowner had planted a row of six evergreen seedlings and protected four of them with wire cages to prevent the city parks department from mowing them down. I made twiggy cages for the two unprotected ones at the end of the row that seemed neglected.
This spring, four of the seedlings were now saplings; but all six were bright green with new growth, even the little sprig at the end of the row. I was filled with joy that the smallest one had survived our hard winter.
However, walking past the other day, I noticed that the little sapling was barely visible in a swathe of tall, sturdy grass. Don’t worry little tree, Sheelagh will rescue you from death by grass asphyxiation. My heart swelled with love for the little thing as I carefully reached into the cage to pull the grass out by the roots.
Three or four fistfuls of grass later, I stopped mid pull. Wait a minute! The soil around the tree was moist and soft. The root ball of the grass was only about I inch thick. The seedling was two or three inches tall – it’s taproot would already be deeper than the grass roots.
So what, you may ask. My mind flashed back to our orchard that looked like the lawn of an English estate, except that it was covered with trees every 20 feet. Before our time, my uncle had kept the grass cut with a flock of geese that also provided plenty of fertilizer. It was one of the most productive orchards in our stretch of the valley.
Many orchards were grass free – bare dirt – created like that to preserve the soil nutrients for the trees. My uncle, however, knew that grass would keep the moisture in the ground – an essential in the dry, desert-like heat we endured in the summer. He supplemented his trees with a hearty diet of goose droppings.
I looked back at the bare dirt I had created around the little seedling. What to do? To weed or not to weed? I did not know how to answer that question.
And so it is in life. So many times a day we need to be discerning about what to keep and what to throw away; how to support life and when to let life go.
My daughter’s landscape architecture thesis was titled “Cultivating Wildness.” I love the idea of trying to find the balance between being wild and being cultivated.
Know when to trim away abundance and when to embrace it.