It’s odd how there are things you can go through your whole life not thinking about. Like “invasive plant species.” I can honestly say I do not recall there ever being a time in my life I have ever truly thought about that term. Here, at Holy Wisdom, it has become a regular part of my vocabulary. Sometimes we shorten it to just ”invasives.” An invasive plant is, to put it subjectively, “a plant growing where it doesn’t belong”. There are no “good plants” or “bad plants” here at Holy Wisdom. All plants are looked at as performing some sort of function. No judgments and no preferential value assigned. The humble dandelion and the sunflower are on equal ground here at the monastery. As long as they respect the plants they share the space with. We call the “plant removal” we do in the garden at Holy Wisdom “weeding” because it is a catch-all term. What we’re really doing is “strategic plant reduction, removal, and relocation with composting as a side benefit.”
Weeding and pruning are necessary things when one is trying to grow plants for food. . . . When invasive plants insinuate themselves in and around those plants you mean to raise for food, problems arise. Invasive plants tend to wrap themselves around the food plants, choking their root or preventing them from getting optimal sun and water. The invasive plants leach essential moisture and nutrients from the surrounding ground and deprive your food plant of getting what it needs. . . .
Weeding, pruning, digging are time-consuming, never-ending activities and as I do them I find myself relating the activity to my everyday life and the challenges I face as a person, my faults and weaknesses, the qualities in myself I wish were more developed, the good stuff about myself I don’t acknowledge or downplay. Thoughts come to me in waves: Am I truly grateful for what I have? Do I really realize how blessed I really am? I suppose one could view the task of removing invasive species as an internal one as well.
I know I definitely have those “invasives” or “weeds” or “rot” that I wish, more often than not, I could rip out or cut out and compost or at least identify in enough time to do some damage-control. Qualities in ourselves that if we could, we would prefer not to entertain as a part of our person. Sometimes we don’t even know how they got to be a part of us or why we let them get as big as we do. We just know them as part of the landscape, as it were.
Unfortunately, if they are left too long then, like Queen Anne’s Lace, and wild grass, and the Japanese beetles, they will destroy the good things about ourselves little by little. You have to be willing to do the work, to grow and learn every day, to probe the parts of yourself that are unfamiliar to you in order to reap the benefit of the good stuff. You have to ask the hard questions and go in knowing there might be unpleasant things like squash bugs and hornets you’ll have to get through. . . .
How can one learn quickly which qualities about oneself are good and worthy of development in time to help them flourish? How can I appreciate myself better and be grateful for what I have in my life and how it had come to me? Conversely how does one learn which qualities are damaging in time to stop them from taking over and ruining other relationships? Do I keep working at it, even when half of what I plant won’t turn out the way I expected? How do I prune in my own life? How do I judge when I have become too concerned about things that are fundamentally damaging to my spirit? How do I cut the branches that are obstructing my goals for my authentic self?”
So many questions. The answers, like the food from the garden, will hopefully, come in time.
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For additional excerpts from Sarah’s on-going blog, click on this link: A Confirmed City Girl looks for God in a Monastery