I love good weeds. I love rescue dogs, old carpentry tools, regional recipes, and moss. I love to find a throwback store where the proprietor is a master of something. My dry cleaner is like this. Her establishment appears to be a hole in the wall, with a shrine to an ancestor on one wall and a limit to how small a purchase can go on a card. But when I took a complex mending problem to her, she fixed it, invisibly. She is a master seamstress, a needle maven, and a nice lady. Like a weed, her store is obscure but has value.
Here, spring is already tuning up. I see four—petaled bluets in my luckier neighbor's lawns. I see dandelions and henbit, the edible, peppery weed with tiny purple trumpets. In my own yard, the trilliums are starting to unfurl. A few times, I've found the coveted morel mushroom in my yard, and sautéed it in butter for my family's enjoyment. An influx of million dollar houses has been popping up like mushrooms, though they arrive more noisily than mushrooms.
The million-dollar houses lack weeds. Bless their little hearts, they only have what the landscape crew rolled out, after obliterating what was there before. Their landscapes are more predictable than those of the older, smaller houses that predate them by a couple of generations. Builders scrape the earth so they can put in something huge, to make the most money they can.
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad for the tax base and the jobs; glad it's not still 2008. But bigger and more homogeneous I do not like.
Only once have I rescued something from one of the older houses on house death row. The timing was right, the season was right. I tried to do it right—I called the number on the real estate agent's sign to ask permission. No answer. Left a voice mail. Got my shovel. Those ferns up against the side of the diminutive ranch had no hope for the future. So I dug them up. They look happy by my driveway. I also scored a yellow and white and burgundy columbine, which I would not have noticed, except that it was spring. It sleeps in a container by my porch. I circled back and took a single coral-colored tulip, also still asleep.
Now there is an empty white mini-mansion with a freshly sodded lawn where my rescues once lived. Not one weed.
But there will be weeds, later. Certainly there will be weeds two generations later, and probably sooner. I think it won't take that long for nature to begin to reclaim what man has staged for the next homebuyer.
The great Jean Karl wrote the children's book "Strange Tomorrow," in which some highly disagreeable aliens wiped out most life on earth. They were from the planet Chlord, and their near-apocalypse is defeated (spoiler alert) by something like divine intervention. The Chlordians liked things sanitized and homogenized, to an extreme. Their tedious planet had no weeds, no pets, no holes in the wall, no old things, no humor, no quirky artisans. But Gaia rose again. The Chlordians had to take a hike. Earth regenerated, like she always does.
Some economic, technological, and cultural forces are pushing us in a Chlordian direction, in my opinion. Builders wipe out the old houses and their wildflowers. Online shopping starves real life stores where you live. Giant stores starve the mom and pop stores. Giant farms soak their corn in herbicides, with multiple side effects, from sick bees to super weeds (the bad kind). All the news that lives on your phone supplants what was once the paper of record where you live, the one you paid to subscribe to. All the distraction that lives on your phone weakens your social skills.
But Gaia is strong. And human beings' need for a humane culture is strong. I think that's why we have the tiny house movement, the community gardens, and the rooftop chickens. People want to live in a way that feeds their senses and their feelings.
I'm writing this in one of my favorite libraries. Shout out to Avis Williams! It has floor to ceiling windows on three sides. These windows look out on old growth forest, with the most delightful weeds. They have native azaleas and mosses and wild gingers, I've seen them with my own eyes. The library has a bench out front for people to wait for their rides, or have a chat, or just contemplate.
It's built on a humane scale. The architect considered how to blend nature and the library. It replaced a dim bunker-like one. It kept the forest that surrounded the bunker. There's even a path that leads through the forest, which is why I have noticed the small undergrowth plants.
I want more amenities like this. I celebrate lawns with spring wildflowers in them, and meadows with edible weeds. I celebrate healthy bees. I celebrate mom and pop businesses.
I don't want the biggest brashest most sanitized everything. In my own little parcel of nature, I am going to fly the flag of Pan. Long live the weeds. Long live the five—lined skinks. May they forever surprise us.