Tuesday ingenuity

Even on a dark and stormy day, the sun is still shining above the clouds. I know that’s a cliché, but it happens to be true. Looking for some ray of sunshine today, I decided to think about Tuesdays, and especially about the very first Tuesday. For on Sunday God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. On Monday God separated the waters above from the waters below. On Tuesday God lifted dry land out of the water, and then he covered the land with vegetation, numerous plants, each according to its kind.

Placing vegetation on the land makes good ecological sense, since healthy plant life reduces erosion by wind and by water. The plant life could also begin the cycle of producing oxygen for animals to breathe, since God foreknew the animals he would create on Thursday and Friday.

When God created plants, he also created beauty. The predominant color of plants is green, but green comes in many shades. God also mixed in flowering plants to provide many other colors as well as pleasant fragrances. God designed tropical rain forests, grand hardwood forests for more moderate climates, prairies of waving grass, and even lichens for the parts of the planet that would remain cold for most of the year. He placed durable plants in the deserts, and other plants underwater in lakes, streams, and oceans. God created plants that could replicate themselves by seeds, and others that could divide to spread through the ground. He made trees that could bend in the wind, violets that could shelter under the trees, and even ivies that could climb the trees.

Best of all, though, God created plants that can be eaten. Buried treasures include carrots, beets, turnips, onions, potatoes, and peanuts. Above the ground we find peas and beans, pumpkins and other kinds of squash, and various edible grains, including wheat, oats, barley, rice, and sweet corn. God made leaves we can eat, such as lettuce and cabbage; stems we can eat, such as rhubarb and asparagus; flowers we can eat, such as broccoli and cauliflower; and even an edible tree bark called cinnamon. He created many kinds of berries—including not only strawberries and blackberries, but also grapes and tomatoes. God designed the fruit of trees with great variety: apples, pears, cherries, peaches, mangoes, papayas, oranges, lemons, coconuts, walnuts, and cashews. God created herbs and spices such as parsley and oregano, cloves and black pepper, mustard and chili pepper, and sugar. To top it off, God hid special surprises in tea leaves, coffee beans, and chocolate.

For which of Tuesday’s children are you especially thankful this week? J.


Of weeds and wildflowers

Let’s start with some important definitions. A weed is a plant on your property that you do not want. It might be as small as a patch of moss or as big as an oak tree, but if you don’t want it, it is a weed.

A wildflower is a flowering plant that grows without being planted or tended by any person. Wildflowers grow in the wild, of course, but they also can grow on your property. If you like it and want to keep it, it is not a weed. It is a wildflower.

Obviously, one person’s wildflower is another person’s weed. Each person should be free to make up his or her own mind about the plants on his or her own property. Members of a household may need to negotiate with one another about weeds and wildflowers, but unless a neighborhood association or city council defines certain plants as weeds, the definitions can change at each property line.

I have neighbors whose lawns are nothing but carefully tended grass. They use chemicals to kill the broad-leaf weeds that they do not want, and they limit flowers to carefully nurtured plants and shrubs in carefully tended beds. They labor every fall to remove the leaves from their lawns nearly as quickly as the leaves fall, and in spring and summer they spend hours of each week mowing and trimming and edging their lawns.

My lawn does not look like their lawns. A few days after the last snow melts, tiny flowers appear across the lawn. I think they are called cinqfoils. Most of them are white, but some of them are pale pink and lavender. I love the spring cinqfoils, and the first time or two that I mow, I leave patches of them to continue blooming.

Before the cinqfoils have finished blooming, the violets are in bloom. I have allowed and encouraged violets to grow along the edges of the lawn, especially in front of the house. Other places where patches of violets are thick also are spared mowing until several weeks into spring weather.

Then while the violets are still blooming, some wild daisies (at least they look like daisies) emerge. Some years I have mowed them down, but when I realized what kind of plant they are, I decided to leave a bed of blossoms for them also. In fact, I might leave that patch of lawn unmowed into the summer to see what else appears there when the daisies are done.

White clover grows in the lawn. I like the clover because it fills the spots where the grass is thin. It also takes well to mowing. One summer a drought killed off much of our clover, but it is beginning to return, and I am delighted to see it grow.

I do not spare dandelions the way I spare violets and cinqfoils, but I also do not work hard to fight them. When I have time, I might dig out a few dandelion plants, but I am not going to start spraying to kill them, for fear that I will lose my other valued wildflowers.

I watch my neighbor as she works harder than a golf course manager to maintain a lawn that meets her standards. I know that she resents my wildflowers, because I know that to her they are all weeds. I would like to take her aside and say to her, “Mrs. Dim, were you never a little girl? Did you never look for four-leaf clovers, and when you found one you felt that you had good luck? Didn’t you used to love to blow the seeds of a dandelion into the air? Was there never a time when you picked violets or made a chain of daisies? Why would you want to deny your grandchildren the same simple pleasures? I hear you complain that they spend all their time on video games and electronic devices. But maybe, Mrs. Dim, just maybe they would take more interest in the outdoors if their outdoors were not so carefully managed and sanitized.”

Of course I will never have this conversation with my neighbor. She has every right to maintain her property the way she likes. But I feel sorry for her. She is missing so much fun and so much beauty by eliminating the wildflowers and all that they represent.