This piece originally appeared on elephant journal, here.
“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was driving down the road and noticed a few patches of weeds.
At a stop light, I continued to stare and noticed flashes of purple from a weed flower and the pop of yellow from dandelions.
When did weeds become bad? When did uniform, perfectly-manicured lawns become good?
And at what cost?
As a child, blowing dandelion seeds and watching the wind carry them off was always a magic moment for me. We now see a weed where we used to see a wish.
I want the wild, the unexpected. I don’t want acres of the same shade of green, evenly trimmed grass blades. I don’t want to be mad at the deer for eating the flowers that we painstakingly paid to be planted.
We spend money on chemicals to stop weeds for a brief period of time—money that could be used on so many other things. Why? Is it because we are afraid of what the next-door neighbors will think?
I remember the horror I felt when my boyfriend wanted to treat the weeds cropping up in our driveway with Roundup, because that is what you do in suburbia. “We live 100 feet from the lake where our dogs swim every day! They would be swimming in poison!”
Because the weeds always come back, and then the cycle begins again.
When I drive by wildflowers planted on the side of the road though, I can’t help but smile. There is a 1987 federal law mandating one-quarter of one percent of federal landscaping money be devoted to planting wildflowers by the highway. That seems tiny, but I’ll take it.
We could all plant wildflowers around our yard and save time on mowing. But I do love the smell of fresh-cut grass. I get pleasure out of seeing a beautiful lawn with crisscross patterns from the mower. I used to edge my lawn for hours in a meditative state.
There are other ways to tame the weeds though. We could skip the gym and pull the weeds if their existence is bothering us that much. We can pour boiling water, vinegar, or leftover pickle juice on them. We can smother them with newspapers so the sun can’t reach them.
Or we can just let them be. We can stop the judgment.
“One man’s weed is another man’s flower.” ~ Gloria Naylor