I saw a lovely display of outdoor plants at the supermarket, today. I imagined how nice they would look on my patio and was tempted to buy them, until I remembered I have a black thumb. Some people are born with green thumbs, that nurture and nourish whatever flora they touch. My hands, however, are anathema to my chlorophyll producing friends that share the planet with me. Besides, I have a lovely weed at home.
Over the years, I made many attempts to populate my patio with greenery. My patio still displays a scattering of empty pottery filled only with soil, vestigial remains that stand as ceramic monuments to my fruitless endeavors at gardening. Except for one pot. As if to defy Persephone, the goddess of springtime, or more likely merely to mock me, something did take root in the potting soil in this one planter – a weed.
It began as a small weed, but quickly grew, as weeds are wont to do. It covered the surface of the rather large planter, and one day I stepped out on the patio and pulled out the weed by its roots, leaving my planter barren again. A few weeks later, I noticed a small weed sprouting from beneath the planter’s soil. In time, it grew … and spread. Eventually, I yanked it out and assumed I was done with it.
The weed was resilient. It returned with a vengeance. It spread across the circumference of the ceramic planter, and then, to my surprise, grew skyward. More and more, my weed came to resemble a plant. It was green. It looked full. And it had appendages resembling leaves. Visitors would comment on what a lovely plant I had. At first, I would correct them. “No, it’s not a plant; it’s a weed.” I soon tired of that. I learned to nod and mutter a quiet “Thank you.”
Now, whenever I step onto the patio, I’m greeted by the lush greenery spilling forth from the once barren pot. It actually looks rather nice. I can see where people might think it was a plant. I water it, and take undeserved pride in its colorful appearance. I’m uncertain if I've accepted the weed or been co-opted by it.
I came to see the weed as an allegory for aging. Each generation enters the world filled with energy and the irrefutable belief that it will change the world. Yet, as the years turn to decades, that youthful energy fades as entropy sets in, and those once hopeful in their callow, optimistic naïveté realize, despite all their well-meaning intentions and efforts, the world has not changed. Poverty, disease, crime, war – the scourges of humanity – are inexorable weeds in our garden. Eden, like the lovely display of flora at my supermarket, is not the garden to which we come home. Aging, you see, is the process of learning to accept the inexorable, that which we cannot change.