Many if not all of my six brothers have from time to time described me by saying “You are truly your mother’s child.” The reference is to my love for planting and nurturing flowers, something Mom famously would do (I’ve never come close to her prowess, but the urge to imitate continues to motivate).
I will confess that I strive (imperfectly) for perfection when planting and nurturing things that bloom. I always feel vindicated when my gently curving row of impatiens morphs, by this time of year, into a showy hedge of multi-colored blossoms. (Feel free to drive by and have a look.) My wife will attest to the fact that I am a compulsive weeder, circling the perimeter of the house on a regular basis, yanking out unwanted intruders.
This morning I got a surprise. I spotted a vine insinuating itself into the midst of a thicket of lilies of the valley. I’ve been yanking out this variety of weed for the past ten years, always worried it will get the better of some perennial and slowly choke it to death. (I’m still not sure this might not happen, but keep reading.)
When I spotted the wiry culprit this morning, I got an unexpected surprise (see photo). This cunning invader actually puts out blossoms if you give it time enough. By appearance, they seem to be a distant cousin of the petunia. I’m pretty sure there are horticulturally-inclined readers out there who can and will tell me the name this freelance self-starter.
What’s the takeaway from all of this? For me, it’s this. When it comes to flower gardening, I tend to be a one-person purity cult. I like things clean, orderly and predictable. (My wife says my perennial garden is anything but orderly, but I keep telling her the riotous collection looks that way by design.) The problem with promoting purity, however, is that one risks missing what doesn’t fit one’s original scheme. If I’d yanked that vine a day or so earlier, I’d have missed the blossom (and I can now see there are more on the way.)
There’s a principle here. The way I make sense out of life is to embrace things that fit my world-view and “weed out” the rest. Officially, I’m in favor of diversity. But I still have my moments when I don’t know what to do with a stranger I encounter who doesn’t meet my expectations. I’m still working on controlling my impulses when walking through an airport or down an urban street, seeing someone with green or blue streaks in his or her hair.
In the local arena, I will confess that listening to Duane Liddle, of blessed memory, hold forth at City Council meetings used to drive me a little crazy. I thought his shared observations, based on the considerable research he always used to do, were slightly off the wall. But then one day Duane approached me and explained his rationale on a particularly contentious issue. I still disagreed with him when the conversation was over, but I had gained a new appreciation for where he was coming from, along with grudging admiration for his persistence.
We live in contentious times. To paraphrase Ambrose Bierce, many among us now seem to believe that truth means “being wrong at the top of your lungs.” Still, there are kernels of truth even in the midst of the most egregious misstatements. It may take some sifting to discern them.
The purity cult in me encourages shutting out every voice that contradicts what I’ve already persuaded myself to believe. I’ve learned, however, that failing to see and hear where others are coming from amounts to yanking all the vines out of my flower garden before the blossoms appear.
I may still pull those vines out, but I think I’ll watch to see what the flowers look like first.