Kelley J. Leigh

Loud World. Quiet Soul. Listen beyond the noise.

A Good Year for Daisies

What tangled garden weeds taught me about relationships … 


a good year for daisies

In the Garden

My hard-packed green grave of a garden stares me down like a dare. I’ve been too busy. After successive weeks of last-minute preparations, guests and graduation celebrations, it is time. The high-altitude flower bed in my front yard has become a collection of brambling growth and hard dirt. While I was planning parties and running with the clamor of life, the weeds quietly moved in. They arrived and pretended they were just passing through, hands in pockets, whistling and looking at the sky. Now tenacious clover, wild grass and dandelions are doing their best to avoid eye contact and blend in. They act as if they belong and tighten their rooted grips.

Inevitably, the defense of flowers requires a fight with weeds. And where weeds are concerned, today is always a better day than tomorrow.

My flower garden runs the length of my yard. It is a wild swath of collected favorites and mostly whatever will grow. After a long angry May full of snow storms and floods, the yard looks like a rebellious tangle of weeds and flowers. I find my crusty garden bag and wonder why the middle finger on my right-hand work glove always has a hole. I set down the claw, rake, and shovel, pick up my cup of coffee and stare at the botanic jumble.

Last year was a boon year for blue flax. Flax blooms four delicate little papery blue pedals. Sprays of the blue flowers float atop tall wiry stems which hover and bend in the breeze. I’ve heard the tough twine-like stems were used to wrap mummies in Egypt. I don’t know if that’s true. But I do love blue flax.

The year before that was an explosion of lamb’s ear. The year before that, daisies.

I take a sip of coffee and note the apparent absence of daisies. I realize I miss the cheerful crowds of white blooms and wonder if they are gone forever.

The Weeding

Down on my knees, I begin to carefully sort growing leaves as foe or friend, enemy or ally. Before each ruthless yank of war, I inspect. Since so little actually grows in the thin air at 8900 ft elevation, I allow some so-called weeds take up residence. A long wandering purple sweet pea, wild sweet sage, tiny blue penstemon are unruly about where they set down roots, but welcome nonetheless. I reach into the middle of tender clumps of pink and purple creeping phlox. With two fingers, I pull the unwanted blades of grass while protecting the new growth. I cut brown twiggy stems left over from last year and expose the hidden green beneath. Choices matter in a garden.

Left untended, the good and the bad grow side by side. Eventually, one chokes out the other. 

I pull out my iron claw and confront the tall grass and dandelions. My husband ambles out of the house to stand beside me knee deep in my weedy war. We begin to catch up on the last weeks of busyness and guests. We agree about running on the surface these last days and weeks. We recount how we slid back into the worst versions of ourselves. For a few weeks, we fell into the old default modes of avoidance. We chat about all the things shoved out of the way “until later” —  all of the unattended conflict seeded below the surface. We dig them out, one by one:

That shut down interaction in the back of the pickup, while we were freezing in sleeping bag

That anxiety meltdown I had before the party

The way neither of us knew exactly when loving touch disappeared

The way we both headed for our corners of isolation after that one dinner

We talk, and pull the weeds in our relationship. I move across the long yard of dirt, slowly yanking green and revealing wormy loose brown goodness beneath. Piles of limp cast-off plants grow and so does our pile of cast off hurts. I feel empowered about the excavation of a very hard surface and then, I discover them. Twenty, maybe thirty small clumps, hiding beneath last year’s stems and this year’s weeds. The daisies are there, clump upon clump, small, determined, green and growing; no blooms yet, just the small regenerating signs of life. Turns out, it’s going to be a good year for daisies.

My husband and I pause after so many difficult words and finally thaw enough to smile. We speak the obvious, “Why is this always so hard? It is always so much better afterward, and still, we resist entering the work of it. What’s that about?”

The Growth

Weeds move into untended spaces when we are too busy to notice. The surface gets hard, difficult to penetrate. Roots become tenacious. But in the end, the work of yanking dandelions creates space for daisies. And I think those principles apply to humans, too.

The good and the bad, the wise and foolish, always grow together in a big tangled mess. We are always both, side by side. In a way, the process of weeding is a lot like the practices of confession and repentance. Confession is speaking the hard truth and taking responsibility. Repentance is turning in a new direction. The simple act of entering into the mess and moving toward each other with our words clears out space for understanding, intimacy, and goodness. What’s allowed in the garden, grows.





Single daisy image by Mass Pictures

10 Replies

  1. kristen simons

    Gritty…hard…made me feel that space of living with weeds…there’s just nothing about this life that is valuable that is simple. I think there is a temptation to believe that because it’s hard, it’s not good…like people who have beautiful relationships somehow arrived at that point because it was written in the stars…working on it feels like there must be something wrong with us. So many lies to work through..thanks.

    1. Kristy. RE: How we think it should be easy “like people who have beautiful relationships somehow arrived at that point because it was written in the stars…” Wow. Yes. Difficult to decide that because it is hard it is still good. Well said. Thanks. ~K

  2. Linda hansen

    Timely since I spent the last few days madly attacking my weeds. It is always overwhelming since my yard is huge but the “dirt therapy”, sweat, natural high from hard labor is worth it, not to mention the lovely outcome. It never lasts; I know I will have to stay on top of it but for now, I am deeply satisfied with my efforts. I have often pondered the analogy between weeding and relationships. Thankis for putting it into your poignant words.

    1. Linda, no doubt your garden is beautiful right now. Wish I could see. As gardeners I think most of us contemplate deeper things during the hard work of weeding. Yes? So glad to know I am in good company! As always, thanks so much for your response here. Happy to hear from you. oxox

  3. Dawn Pirtle

    LOVE!!!! Welcome back! I thought I was just missing yout posts since I’ve been so busy. Absolutely love this story. Such a beautiful comparison and analogy. So true! <3

    1. Well, hello again, Dawn! Nice to ‘hear’ your voice again. Sounds like you had a busy May, too. Happy June! ~K

  4. Kim

    Hi Kelley! Oh my gosh, I couldn’t agree more!!! In fact, I speak at these “healing” conferences, and use my garden and the weeds as inspiration for why we need to pull up the roots of the weeds, the weeds being the “unhealed wounds” from our childhood. I just LOVE your words…you speak truth and wisdom with such grace and humor. Thank you for being an inspiration and encouragement to all who read your words! Much love :)

    1. Kim, what a great context for your own garden and weed analogy. ‘Love that you speak at healing conferences and would like to hear more about that. Message me. As always, I appreciate your responses and encouragement here. oxox

  5. That means a lot, Peggy. Thanks so much for being here. ~K

  6. Peggy

    Love, love, love your voice. Welcome back and thanks for sharing your weeds and your daisies.

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