Sunday, May 23, 2010

A meditation in Gold

I wrote the following a few years ago after a particularly long spring of digging buttercups. I just came in from hoeing down those golden beauties and thought I would share what I wrote so long ago. It is surely still true today.

A Meditation in Gold

I am drowning in a sea of buttercups. Each spring their fecundity catches me unaware. By summer, I’ve spent untold hours digging them out of my gardens. When autumn comes, I throw up my hands in defeat as they spread their seeds with joyous promiscuity.

An occasional wildflower where I was raised, buttercups now rule my visual world. Left untended they stake their claim across my farmstead. Buttercups are surprisingly domineering. One summer of weeding left undone and an entire flower garden disappears.

“It’s only because the soil is too wet,” the nurseryman says.

Hmm, I think. That spot wasn’t filled with buttercups when we moved in. Did they bring their water with them when they grew?

Once my garden-loving aunt came to visit when we were new to our farm. Seeing all the buttercups she marveled at their sun-crested beauty. “I’d let them grow, they’re such pretty little things.” she said as she fawned over their yellow fairy cups.

“Maybe,” I hesitantly ventured. “But don’t you think there are an awful lot of them?”

Little did I know. The previous owners must have struggled to remove every trace of buttercups from all cultivated areas before they sold the farm. What harm could a few (hundred) stragglers cause? And so, I let them be.

Now seven years later, the tide has truly come in. Hundreds became thousands and thousands became -- dare I say -- millions. The lower pasture, once filled with lush grass, is now a golden meadow of delight, except the sheep would much rather eat grass than buttercups so what am I to do? The buttercups steadily encroach upon any area of disturbed or wet ground (like my vegetable garden, where I can pull ten gallons a day week after week and not make a dent).

I rail against their bright spirit as they haunt my days with their ever-present vitality. Their sheer numbers render me helpless. How can I rid my garden of them? And yet, if I stop flailing against this tide and relax into the flow, something mysterious happens. They throw me a lifeline. Instead of me subduing them, their passionate wildness reaches out to buoy me along. Buttercups become my meditation

Like early morning sirens, they lure me from my bed. I find them wherever I wander with my trusted fork and a five-gallon bucket in hand. Each morning I gather bucket after bucket of these golden weeds. The buttercups are my excuse to be with the green, growing earth beneath me. The peace of the land penetrates my cells as I silently work the soil. I place each plant into my bucket with care, an offering from the stillness of my heart.

Buttercups have taught me the power of surrender as they alternately yield to and wrestle with my fork. They cling to their home with tenacious intent. Roots of steel, I have often thought. Yet, there is a sense of knowing when and how to pull that gently persuades them to relinquish their earthly connection. If I fight them the stalks snap in my hand, and the buttercups re-emerge with vigor. But if instead, I soften, melding myself to their essential nature, I know just where to pull and how. They literally slip from the soil into my hand. Their surrender originates in mine. When we meet as one, the plant yields and soon my bucket is full.

I give thanks for this practice as I bring my chickens their daily breakfast of fresh greens. The hens happily devour their morning treat, graciously transforming the weeds into eggs with yolks as rich and golden as the flowers. Unlike me, my chickens have no difficulty with their profusion in my yard. They welcome every buttercup they meet.

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