May 21, 2022
Behind the windows, it’s dark; a misty gray fog hangs over everything. Already anxiety is seeping into the seams of the day as forecasts call for deadly heat, approaching 100 here, over 90 for half the country. The war in Ukraine continues and Russia persists despite the losses, leaving behind absolute destruction regardless of the technical outcome. It becomes clearer every day that our country is deeply divided and that violence seems to be spreading. What can I do to protect my heart and not lose it? Where is the joy? And the flowers?
I checked the weather again: 94 is the new predicted high, not 99 as predicted. The street looks wet but without puddles. I wonder if that means it rained overnight or if it’s just condensation from dew on the sidewalk since the humidity is so high. It will be heavy for sure – August into May. I want to approach this day in a way that offers hope, that comforts, that instills a sense of connection with my own goodness, confident that there is a way to make things better. I imagine faith gives that confidence: trusting God to have a plan that will take care of the world, take care of me and those I love. But if I don’t have that faith, if I’m limited to faith in worldly humanity, and watch the ugly aspects of that humanity multiply in ominous patterns of the past, where can I find hope ? And the flowers?
Long ago, my wise mentor Dan Miller showed us that sometimes a thoughtful metaphor can help deal with a painful and unpleasant truth. I’m looking for a metaphor that acknowledges danger while offering comfort and sowing seeds for action.
Whenever I feel stuck – writing a story, avoiding a chore, struggling to understand – and weather permitting, I wander outside for a tour of our little yard. I can see what has changed since my last trip, sometimes just hours before. I look for what has grown and what has not; often, especially in the spring, I am amazed.
Among the weeds…
Source: Annita Sawyer
Today the air is heavy on my skin, but the sun has dried the fog. In the side yard near the house, I stand amidst all manner of weeds that furiously push their limits, showing off their blooms, far outweighing the few patches of grass that now reach my knees. They compete for every square inch of rich soil at the bottom of a river in my little backyard.
Normally I would have mowed this area weeks ago as soon as the grass started to grow. I learned early on that whatever vegetation there is, if it’s pretty green and freshly mowed, it looks like a nice lawn, at least briefly, and gives a sense of order. Why haven’t I taken care of the yard yet? Because this year I joined “No-Mow May”! Like many of my neighbors – a wide cross section of bug-loving hippies – I won’t be mowing my lawn in May. We want to give pollinators more time with all kinds of wonderful plants and their flowers, which otherwise wouldn’t be available, with mower blades decapitating them before they bloom or the bees arrive.
Is the weeds and the side yard the metaphor I need?
What do I have to say about the garden and pollinators? The milkweed we planted from the meadow is for the butterflies. I wonder what it will look like as the summer progresses. Last year, the few stems that appeared grew so tall that they overflowed; I had to tie them to the fence so they wouldn’t block the boardwalk. They were rather unsightly at that time. I guess we’ll see – it’s an adventure. Will agrees with me on turning the side yard into a wild pollinator garden. We’ll find flowers and bushes to populate it and make sure there’s an easy path to walk, but we won’t worry about grass maintenance or mowing. We agree to mow the back. There’s another week in the month, so maybe next weekend I’ll mow there.
A new lily of the valley shoot
Source: Annita Sawyer
I delight in each new sprout of lily of the valley, barely bigger than a blade of grass, but round, with a small bump at the top. Near Sharon’s roses is a fast-spreading weed that I’ve always pulled out – I’ve never seen it mature. Now it’s covered in pretty little white flowers at the end of dozens of stems extending from the center. The irises I divided and transplanted to every corner of the yard last fall are showing flowers. Many have at least three stems; most stems bear four elaborate flowers on their stems.
I heard about No-Mow May from a neighborhood email encouraging us to participate. I have since learned that this is a serious movement across the country. Simple inertia prepared me: first the lawnmower needed a tune-up, but even after the delay I didn’t want to use my time outside to mow, which gave me one step ahead of No Mow. Now I’m a true believer.
It’s a small action, but it’s real. It brings the community together. It tackles climate change and raises awareness of the cycles of life; it celebrates beauty and life. We are moving closer and closer to honoring and integrating Indigenous wisdom regarding our connection to the land and to all living things. We are here together, whatever our political or religious philosophy, whatever we believe: us and the bees and the blue jays and the groundhogs and the trees and the flowers. Bees sting and make honey, and groundhogs eat our beans and flowers. Trees give us fruit and shade from the sun, and they activate allergies. We humans love, we hate, we torment and always strive to do better.