I have killed entire communities. Torn them from the ground. Grasped them tightly so that their deep roots are removed. Piled them up to rot in the sun, molder in the rain, decay to the earth.
I’m talking about weeding.
During the early days of Covid, I realized that my yard was out of control. Weeds had overrun many areas, dense patches that were laced with poison ivy. The idea of removing them seemed impossible, an insurmountable task. But the pandemic gave me the time to work on it, and I could not unsee how ugly our yard had become.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. The end product was satisfying, of course. When I was able to reclaim an area, I felt accomplished. But there was another pleasure: killing. I know it sounds sick, and it goes against my love of Nature. But pulling out a weed by its deep roots meant it was going to have a hard time coming back, that the work I was doing would last.
My greatest nemesis also taught me respect. The trees that line my yard were almost taken over by rope vines. They had climbed to the top of the trees, and were slowly choking them of life. As I began the arduous process of cutting them and uprooting them, I learned a lot. I began to admire how they spread underground, how they used each other to climb. As I cut them back, they almost immediately began to sprout again, to search for a tree or branch and begin to climb. And I swear they would reach for me some times, as if they would use me to climb.
Their roots were sometimes thicker than the vines themselves. They traveled underground for yards, and numerous vines emerged from them. The more I understood them, and respected how they spread, the more I was determined to uproot them, to make it impossible for this stubborn, murderous plant to emerge again.
It took several seasons before they were mostly eradicated. Tendrils still rise from the dirt from time to time, thin strings reaching up to grasp the plants around them. But they are few now, and easily cut.
I don’t miss killing them. I’m proud of how my yard looks, and glad I don’t need to spend all that time weeding anymore. But these weeds taught me truths about how tenacious nature can be, how it is working invisibly, constantly, to grow and spread. It left me with a real respect for growing things on a deeper level than I had already felt. But it didn’t stop my desire to destroy them.