Back in the day in Del Ray, when I still had a yard, this was my gardening mantra:
If it’s green, leave it alone.
I should have had better garden sense, having once upon a time worked at a plant store called “Great Plants Alive”. But truth be told, my house was kind of like a hospice – where plants came home to die.
I depended on Mother Earth to till my soil. Whatever grew, grew — and whatever withered, withered. My yard was a little city patch of green. And since I had no green thumb, this was my golden rule:
If it’s green, let it grow.
My lawn was covered with crab grass, wild violets, clover, and dandelions. The fence was covered with tangled honeysuckle vines, ghetto pines, a struggling maple tree, and poison ivy. Plastic baseball bats and dead tennis balls dotted my lawn.
Occasionally I would attempt to tame this wilding place with my push mower and my weed whacker. But much more often, I would retreat and recline in a plastic chair on the patio to read a good book.
But I did learn one thing of worth at “Great Plants Alive” from a South African gentleman who came into the shop. I noticed him admiring the orange calla lilies just outside the front door.
“Can I help you. Sir? Those lilies are beautiful, aren’t they? Just three dollars a pot.”
“Back home these are WEEDS. Why are you selling weeds? We tear them up and throw them away,” he said.
One person’s weed is another person’s flower, you see.
Good seeds. Bad seeds. Whose to know the difference?
Consider your life a garden, crumbly creative dirt. Watered by grace, seeds sprout, reach for light, struggle to grow:
Seeds planted by parents who raised us.
Seeds planted by all the beloved, bewildering people in our lives.
Seeds planted by all of the puzzles we solve and by problems we invent.
Seeds planted by poets who inspire and by writers we have read.
Seeds planted in all of the ages and stages of our growing up.
Seeds planted by the predicaments and the challenges of our times.
Good seeds. Bad Seeds. Flowers. Weeds.
Whose to know the difference?
Over the course of our lifetimes, whose to know the difference?
Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at the harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned but gather the wheat into my barn. Matthew 13:30
This burning thing makes me very uncomfortable. My personal and favorite heresy is the denial of Hell – at least the three-tiered universe kind of Hell, with Heaven above and Earth below. The flames that burn for all time, fire and brimstone, that eternal damnation kind of Hell.
No, I do not believe in it at all because, if you excuse the expression:
What in Hell kind of God is that?
But I do believe in a more personal hell, more of a purgatory really, where we burn through, burn off, burn up the weeds that have choked out the wheat.
This refining fire is something we all walk through. Like the winnowing of wheat, all of that crappy chaff flies away, and we are left with just a handful of kernels, a few kernels of wisdom. (Maybe.)
Anne Lamott did a Ted Talk a few years back. One of my favorite authors, she is funny, earthy, poignant, and profound – in the most ordinary of ways. Her Ted Talk is called: “Twelve Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.”
On the eve of her 61st birthday, she decided to write down everything she knew to be true. Twelve things but by my count sixteen. Let me briefly paraphrase them for you.
- ;I am every age I have ever been, though my paperwork says I was born in 1954, I feel 47. My true self is outside myself. A friend in his seventies says, “I feel like a young person just with something really wrong with me.”
- All truth is a paradox. Life is at one time a precious, unfathomable, beautiful gift. It is also hard and weird. Filled both with heartbreaking sweetness and heartbreaking poverty. I don’t think it’s an ideal system.
- Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes and then plug it back in. Including you.
- Help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everyone.
- You can’t buy or steal or make anyone else’s happiness. You can’t run alongside of your grown children with sunscreen and Chap-stick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s the respectful thing to do.
- Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Everyone is broken, insecure and scared. They are more like you than you can imagine.
- You also can’t fix or save or rescue anyone else or get anyone else sober. One acronym for God is the “Gift of Desperation.”
- Be full of yourself. Being at home in your own cranky self allows others to be at home in themselves. Being full of affection for one’s self is where world peace begins.
- Chocolate with 78% Cacao is not actually a food. It was never supposed to considered edible. It is best used to balance the legs of wobbly chairs.
- Writers all write terrible first drafts. But they keep their butt in their chairs. Their truth comes through little by little. Just take it bird by bird, her dad told her brother when writing a report for school. Tell them about each bird in your own voice. Bird by bird, God awful first drafts — really good advice for all of life.
- Success will not heal you. It will feel good for a while but it will not fill the “Swiss-Cheesy holes” in your soul. But fostering old dogs or painting murals might
- Families are hard, hard, hard — no matter how cherished or astonishing they might be. Remember that it is a miracle that any one of us was conceived and born. And Earth is forgiveness school. So, we might as well start at the dinner table. This way we can do this work in comfortable pants.
- And food. Try to do a little better. I think you know what I mean.
- Grace. Spiritual WD40 or water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Vladmir Putin and me and you exactly as much your new grandchild.
Laughter is bubbling grace. It is really “carbonated holiness.” It allows us to breathe again and again and to renew our faith in ourselves and in one another.
And Grace always bats last.
- A good name for God is “not me”. The happiest person on earth, Emerson says, is one who learns from nature the lesson of worship. Go outside. Look up!
- And finally, death. Wow. Yikes.
We never get over these losses and against what our culture says, we are not supposed to. Tears of grief bathe and baptize and hydrate and moisturize us on the ground on which we walk. Take off your shoes, God says, this garden is holy ground. All evidence to the contrary, this is the truest thing of all.
Death is as sacred as birth.
When all is said and done, we’re all just walking each other home.
Lamott says she will get back to us, if she thinks of any more.
So, winnow through your own wheat and toss out the weeds. What kernels do you come up with?
I came up with three on my way home from Montana. A frequent flier, I am not, and turbulence is not my friend. I tightened my seat belt and rattled my rosary on a very bumpy ride out of Missoula. Usually it is terror that I taste coming up in my throat, but on this occasion, tears smearing my mascara streamed down my face. Three little words popped into my head.
Love. (OMG! I love you God.)
Thanks. (Thanks for EVERYTHING. Thanks for EVERYONE. I can’t say THANKS enough.)
Hope. (I hope I made a difference. At least a little.)
And then we were safely on the ground. Thank God.
I hope to hold onto these kernels, these little scraps of God given grace – from United Flight 3054.
Love. Thanks. Hope.
And with my feet firmly on the ground, I pray, that they take root, sprout up, and grow all over the place: my place, your place, everyone’s place.
Let the weeds grow up with the wheat, let them grow together until the harvest.
If it’s green, let it grow.