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Welcoming the Teacher Weeds

The clues to a sustainable planet are often in plain sight

After a week of travel, I was thrilled to return home to my glorious Oregon garden.  However, rather than rejoicing in the carefully cultivated beauty, my attention was riveted on a voracious patch of weeds threatening to overtake my carefully-tended perennials. Who was this invasive intruder disrupting my Zen garden?  

Creeping Wood Sorrel

Curious as to what this weedy infestation is, I tapped the collective intelligence of my Pacific Northwest gardeners’ group. I learned that what on the surface looked like a weed, is Creeping Wood Sorrel (in southern Europe it’s called “Hallelujah”), an herb that is often used in teas, is rich in vitamin C, and is a great ground cover that helps preserve water. It also has beautiful, tiny, yellow blooms that makes it an integral part of the ecology of plants, pollinators, and other insects in my garden.  

To tell the truth, I was challenged. I love my garden. I hate weeds. Yet, here I was learning that a weed I was intent on eradicating is also something to be appreciated.   Could I widen my circle of care to somehow include this “intruder” and give it a place in my garden?  Could I make space for these plants to be as happy as I am in my garden?    

I was struck by how what we value shapes what we see. What is a weed anyway? It’s a plant we didn’t plant. From the perspective of valuing intentionally-created order and beauty, it was an unwelcome party crasher.  But from the perspective of the humane gardener who sees gardening as a discovery process and values the inherent wisdom of the wider ecology of the garden, the region, and the planet, it is a plant to be cherished.   

My little garden is one of the places where I learn about how life really works. This encounter with a “weed” is a window into some of the most important questions that face us all today:  “How can we thrive in a way that everyone and all of life is also thriving?” and “What will we learn if we take the perspective that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature?”  

When I return to my garden with these questions in mind, I see more possibility than ever before. 

The Zen Garden


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