26 June 2012

Weeding in the rain

Ground ivy garden
When I was in second grade, my class was assigned a different list of spelling words each week. The list was revealed on Mondays with the test on Fridays. To study, I would pen each word repeatedly down a sheet of loose-leaf lined paper 10 times, 20 times.

My theory was that the repetition would burn the correct spelling into my brain. The reality was that after 10 or so tries at a word, my brain would shut off and I would be running on muscle memory. The longer I spent spelling each word over and over, the less I was able to recognize the accuracy, or inaccuracy, of my spelling.

The word, initially a challenge to pen, was worked past the place of consistency and accuracy until I came full-circle back to a new unfamiliarity with the same term.

A few weeks ago I took a good look at my backyard vegetable garden. The majority of green-age that I saw basking in the afternoon sun was nothing I had planted. It was an infiltrator; a weed known as ground ivy. The heart-shaped leaves ringed with a serrated edge looked like miniature water lilies stretching their arms over the naked ground rather than the surface of a pond. No blooms were visible, just a web of green taking advantage of the soil I disturbed for the sake of my garden.

I got down on my hands and knees to strip away this invader and take back my garden. It was not a quick task. The ground ivy was everywhere. It curled around the corn. It crept between the potatoes. It buried the beans.

I lost track of time in my garden. While I worked, the sky changed from sunny to cloudy to raining and back again. The dirt around the roots of the ground ivy loosened with the rain. But the longer I worked, the more mistakes I made. I switched off my brain and went with muscle memory. See green, grasp and pull without mercy.

I was practicing for my spelling tests all over again. The familiarity was gone and all the plants looked the same. Ground ivy is string beans is oregano.

Eventually I worked through my brainless confusion, pulled up hundreds of handfuls of ground ivy and stood back to see my garden clearly once more.

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