Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

What is a Weed?

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Our much-coveted rain brings with it lots of new growth—especially in the desert. The dry, barren dirt field that was our back yard is now knee-high with grasses and weeds of various sorts. It’s a startling transformation, perhaps because it is so unexpected.

I had a conversation with a gardening friend a few years ago, in which I proposed that a weed was simply a plant growing in the wrong place. Today I’m thinking that this is true, but also not. Ragweed will always be a weed, no matter where it is planted. I’ve spent the past few weeks pulling up the ragweed that’s closest to the house, because we are suffering from its effects.DSC_0892

However, in my opinion, not everything that spontaneously sprouts is a weed. A friend here in Silver City told me recently that she’s pulling 5 types of weeds from her yard, but letting all the grasses grow. She will then “weed whack” them back after they have gone to seed, so that next time we have a good summer monsoon season, she will have an even nicer yard full of waving grasses—and a lot fewer weeds.

DSC_0863 eI’ve had to really think small with regard to our 6.5 acres. Most of the yard will remain in its “natural” state—which does include a nice array of wild grasses and wildflowers. Besides pulling ragweed, my goal this year has been to remove all non-cactus plants from the area we’ve designated as our cactus garden, and pulling all but the wildflowers from my major iris bed and the former grass plot in our front yard that we rototilled a month ago. Those 4 chores are plenty for this year.

As to “weeds” growing in the “wrong” place, one of the challenges I’ve taken upon myself has been to transplant a number of wildflowers from the cactus garden to the former lawn in the front yard. Naturally, the smaller the plant, the more likely it is to survive transplantation. Some have survived, and are even blooming now. I’m also leaving a few of the larger plants for now, wanting to harvest their seeds for sowing in other places for next year.DSC_0866

All this has me thinking about pulling the “weeds” in other areas of my life. What in my life is a true weed (perhaps my addiction to sugar?) that should be pulled out of my life wherever it occurs? And what—if I can step back and take a wider view—are wildflowers that perhaps need transplanting to other areas of my life, rather than being rooted out entirely? Certainly the time I spend reading on the computer should not occur during those hours I intend to spend “earning my keep” with my wordsmithing—but sometimes that becomes a gray area when I’m doing research for a writing project. Prayer is never a weed—but in the rhythm of my day, determining its best location is sometimes a challenge. Even paid work can be a weed if I’m doing it when I know I need to be still and pray.

What are your weeds?

What needs uprooting? What needs transplanting?


Author: Shirin McArthur

I'm a spiritual guide, retreat leader, writer and editor.

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