I’ve been reflecting a lot on weeds for the past couple of weeks as I’ve been out on my morning walk. I stay on the backtracks so the roadsides have been left pretty much to themselves for many years. I’ve been struck by the wide variety of weeds that survive and sometimes thrive on the roadsides. It’s quite a contrast to the vast monocultures of the wheat and canola crops in the paddocks beyond the fence line.
Thanks to the wonders of selective herbicides, the very attentive farmers are able to keep these crops weed free, so we have these beautiful uniform expanses of yellow and green stretching out into the distance. I’m sure that some clever scientist could keep playing with the genes of canola to produce a red or purple variant; wouldn’t that make for a spectacular display across the district? But I digress.
In contrast to these vast crop monocultures, the roadsides are a patchwork of numerous species of plants. Some of them escapees from the gardens of early settlers. Some are prickly, some are bitter, some can be eaten, some have medicinal properties, some have pretty flowers, but all survive without care or attention from humans. In fact, they survive in spite of our efforts. They have been sprayed with herbicides, slashed, burnt and dug out, but in testament to their hardiness, resilience and stubborn genetics that they live on. Some are invasive species that threaten our native ecosystems, but here along the roadside as I walk, they give me pause to think and reflect on my need for resilience and hardiness in the difficult times in which we live.
When we plan our lives and businesses, when we imagine our future, or vision is often like the cultured crops of the farmer. We plant seeds of aspiration and intention, fertilise and nurture these plans for our life through education and loans from the bank or our family. Our plans give us a sense of order and direction. They promise productivity, reward and success. The Covid-19 pandemic has laid waste to many, many such plans. There is a sense that disorder, uncertainty and fragility have overwhelmed us.
Maybe it’s time for us to look to the weeds for inspiration. I’m grateful for those parts of my life which are like the weed; those parts of me, that regardless of what happens, remains tenacious, resilient and want to live. Instead of drawing on one single source of meaning and purpose the variety of weeds along the roadside remind me of the need for a diversity of sources of joy, meaning and purpose. Multiple friendship groups, multiple interest groups, create little pockets of fertility that nurture for as we make our way in a less predictable world.
Some weeds like high nitrogen and prosper under trees where sheep have camped. Others can tolerate alkaline, salty or waterlogged soils. Others are drought tolerant. Weeds find their small niche in the ecology. Weeds are opportunists. Some have seeds that can survive many years in the soil, waiting for the right weather conditions. Some wait for a particularly wet year, some for a dry year. But when the conditions are right they seize their moment to grow and prosper and then to lie dormant again, awaiting their next opportunity.
In these difficult times of the pandemic, with shutdowns, quarantining, and restrictions on gatherings and travel, it’s hard to plan a future that looks like those vast, orderly, monoculture fields of grain. Rather it’s a time to admire the weedy traits in your character, those stubborn, never give up, sometimes prickly but resilient traits that make you ready to take opportunities, to blossom and flourish, or that help you to persist and survive in the face of uncertainty and struggle.
Live the good life. Feed your soul. Stubbornly refuse to give in to despair. I encourage you read your Bible, attend your church, pray or meditate. Nurture your resilience. Feed that stubborn, beautiful weedy part of you.
Jesus said that “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4: 31-32
The people of Jesus day considered the mustard plant to be an invasive, noxious weed, but Jesus said that faith could be likened to just such a hardy plant.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister