A simple path from the Palo Alto Garden Club's annual garden tour. Simple is very hard to maintain!
I don't know who weeds those gorgeous gardens I visited on the tour in Palo Alto this week--but somehow I can't picture their posh owners out there wearing garden gloves and carrying a hoe and a can of weed killer. Still someone has to be a little ruthless to maintain a garden.
Thus it is in life. Just as weeds soak up the nutrients and crowd out the flowers you love, so do weedy people. They take up your time, waste space in your heart, and suck up the oxygen you need for your true friends.
I pondered this as I tackled an especially big weeding project in the garden this weekend.
My apple trees and the bumper crop of weeds surrounding them.
The good thing about weeding is that it has finite boundaries, and you have lots of time for thinking. The bad thing about it--well things, actually--are that it is dirty and tiring and leaves you wondering why you pay that guy each month to just mow your lawn and blow your leaves. Why doesn't he ever pull a weed?
For some reason this led me to thinking about what a soft touch I can be. I was pulling up what is known around here as Spanish wheat--something I've been told the grandees brought here to feed their cattle. Now if I could just get myself a little goat ... oh no Robin! Stop it! This is a time to be ruthless with Spanish wheat.
And that led to me to thinking about the friends in my garden-of-life, whom I 've known and who have had weed-like qualities.
You know the ones I mean: the ones who do nothing but take--just as weeds do. I had one that I knew from television who popped up for years and years taking my friendship. She called when she needed advice or a job reference. She always ran late. She sometimes didn't show at all. She spent many nights in my various guest rooms over the years and always left a mess. Once she invited me to stay with her, but when I got to her house, she was out of town!
And yet, she seemed to look up to me. So I tried to give her my best counsel.
A few years ago, just as I had returned from California to my Florida home after putting my father in the hospital for the second time in several months, she popped up again needing attention. I can use a friend tonight, I thought, feeling low about Dad.
I picked her up, and after loaning her some nail polish remover she needed, we headed to dinner.
We talked about a project she was working on. She said she had to get through dinner quickly so she could get to bed early. Very important she get her beauty sleep. Brr the restaurant was cold. Did I have a sweater? Call the waiter and get him to turn down the air. Where was that waiter? Where was our meal? And she hated the menu.
After about forty five minutes of this, I got up, called over the waiter, paid for our drinks and appetizers, cancelled our dinner orders and said: "I'm done. Let's get out of here." She was flabbergasted. Where was she going to eat?
As I drove her to her car, I felt sorry and apologized. "You know, my father is ill and I'm very worried about him," I said. "I'm sorry I lost my cool."
She turned to me and rolled her eyes: "Well, we all have our little problems, don't we?"
The next day I found the bottle of nail polish remover I had loaned her, uncapped, tucked into the side pocket of my car's front door, leaking onto the floor.
I realized she was a weed and I had just pulled her out.
People like this are often very charismatic and when they shine their glorious spotlight on you--at least on me--I often feel very lucky to know them. I ran into another old friend like this lately, and almost fell dumbstruck in that beam of light for the umpteenth time.
But it didn't take me long to be reminded that underneath the charisma is a person who is never, ever there for me. This kind appears and disappears on their own schedule not yours. Just like a weed.
So, this weekend, I was ruthless with the Spanish wheat and the other weeds surrounding the two apple trees my father planted. And I as I sweated through the project, I pondered a truth I had learned: that I did well to think of certain people in just this way.
It doesn't take much to pull them out.
You might be surprised to find how shallow are their roots. Then again--you might not.
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