The suburban backyard I inherited when I moved into this house was sculpted with ornamental trees and plants, some of them lovely (Japanese maple, snow goose cherry tree and Spotted Aucuba) and some of them not to my liking (an entire section of six Dracaena Spike Plants, boxwood, and forsythia). The previous owner had a thing for lilies and planted hundreds of bulbs which spread thickly and with great bravado as the years went by. Some of these ornamentals got too big and killed smaller things that were trying to grow, so I gradually began removing them. I introduced as many native plants as I could, but not having a particularly green thumb, most of them did not end up rooting and proliferating.

Several years ago, the house and her inhabitants became clouded by a kind of mental darkness in which thoughts ran wild and lightness was fleeting. I was unable to tend to the yard and the weeds began to grow in abundance. Most of the weeds would be considered invasive, garlic mustard and celandine, blue lettuce, cleavers, fleabane, feverfew, dandelion, and pokeweed and I’m sure the neighbors raised eyebrows at my willingness to let the grass be so overtaken. But to the deficit in my consciousness at the time, it was soothing that the ground was proliferating without me. Instead of trying to control the weeds, I learned about them and sought out the medicine of Dandelion, Pokeweed, Cleavers, Plantain, and Feverfew.

This year, the long winter grew slowly into a very green spring, and it was symbolic ritual of clearing the land that allowed something magical to happen: April gave me the gift of a thick and beautiful meadow in which tall prairie grasses clustered and the dandelion flowers, purple nettles, ground ivy and purple crocuses all were in bloom at the same time. I was in awe watching as the bees and the butterflies all came to frolic and I realized – this is a pollinator garden. And so it was with great humility that I registered my house on the pollinator pathway for my county, which includes stately and magnificent gardens showcasing the rich diversity of exquisitely tended native plants.

But I want to hold the space for backyards where accidental gardeners do their best to work with whatever is trying to grow. This is permaculture: a living with the invaders and the ornamentals; the weeds and the medicinal herbs all at the same time. And allowing space for all of them to co-habituate in their wilding. What wants to grow, grows – it is only when things die or when the vines (oh, the vines) threaten to overtake that I intervene.

And I have learned something about the wilding of my own mind, how my creativity takes root into and among, instead of through and in spite of. My backyard feels less like a force of will than it does a gradual reckoning and a surrender. A surrender to “what is.” A surrender to what is yet to be.

And so the plants are my guides and my teachers; we write the story of the garden and the bees come to partake in the worlds we create, anxious readers of our uncertain futures.

 

Published On: June 8th, 2021 / Categories: Logopoeia: essays and responses /

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