Curly dock has a deep-digging claw-like root that grasps the soil and rocks underground like a half a dozen dandelions working together, defying removal. I’d let a whole patch get ahead of me, and today went at it for a breather from a tense conversation. By my apple tree was a thicket of mature dock plants almost three feet tall above more seedlings awaiting a sunlight breakthrough at ground level. The big ones were clustered five or six per square foot in places–obviously I had let whole crops of seed settle and take root while I tended to lettuces elsewhere. But with the energy of frustration, the leverage of my spading fork and the strength of my arms, I started working, loosening soil, prying, plunging the fork deeper, prying, and then, the satisfying muffled snap of each root tip. One by one I wrenched them all up and piled them to decompose by the path, releasing their nutrients back into the topsoil.
Weeding is meditative for me–not in the peaceful, out-of-body sense, but it has a rhythm and set purpose that channels my physical tension and frees my mind to consider, grapple with, remember, process. Reminds me of “Gavin’s Woodpile,” a Bruce Cockburn song in which he wrestles with the contrast between the various manifestations of “the curse of these modern times” with the beauties of living. Listen here, and the lyrics are below:
working out on Gavin’s woodpile
safe within the harmony of kin
visions begin to crowd my eyes
like a meteor shower in the autumn skies
and the soil beneath me seems to moan
with a sound like the wind through a hollow bone
and my mind fills with figures like Lappish runes of power…
and log slams on rough-hewn log
and a voice from somewhere scolds a barking dog.
i remember a bleak-eyed prisoner
in the Stoney Mountain life-suspension home
you drink and fight and damage someone
and they throw you away for some years of boredom
one year done and five more to go —
no job waiting so no parole
and over and over they tell you that you’re nothing…
and i toss another log on Gavin’s woodpile
and wonder at the lamp-warm window’s welcome smile.
i remember crackling embers
coloured windows shining through the rain
like the coloured slicks on the English River
death in the marrow and death in the liver
and some government gambler with his mouth full of steak
saying “if you can’t eat the fish, fish in some other lake.
To watch a people die — it is no new thing.”
and the stack of wood grows higher and higher
and a helpless rage seems to set my brain on fire.
and everywhere the free space fills
like a punctured diving suit and i’m
paralyzed in the face of it all
cursed with the curse of these modern times
distant mountains, blue and liquid,
luminous like a thickening of sky
flash in my mind like a stairway to life —
a train whistle cuts through the scene like a knife
three hawks wheel in a dazzling sky —
a slow motion jet makes them look like a lie
and i’m left to conclude there’s no human answer near…
but there’s a narrow path to a life to come
that explodes into sight with the power of the sun.
a mist rises as the sun goes down
and the light that’s left forms a kind of crown
the earth is bread, the sun is wine
it’s a sign of a hope that’s ours for all time.