We're baking in a drought; why are these weeds growing like...weeds?

Mike Christopherson

    Obsess: To “preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.”

    Weed: “A wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.”

    I’ll give you one guess as to what’s driving me batty these days.

    My wife and I have disagreements; we maybe even reach the level of having an actual argument every once in a great while. But we don’t yell at each other. There are no red faces. Neither of us has ever shouted in anger at the other.

    Given all of that perpetual wedding bliss, it can be assumed that neither my wife nor I have ever felt compelled to throw some clothes and personal items in a duffel bag to cool off at a nearby hotel for a couple of days. Neither of us has ever suggested a trial separation, or threatened divorce.

    But I may have gotten the most frigid of cold stares bordering on a death-glare the other day when I came in through the front door, my face and bald head covered in a sweaty sheen, my hands dirty and soil caked underneath my fingernails, and announced:

    “I think I like winter better than summer.”

    I can say truthfully that what I uttered I actually do not believe – I’m more of a fan of the transitional seasons, spring and fall – but at that moment, I had simply had enough. I am overcome with a fiery dislike for weeds. My wife and I have always encouraged everyone in our household to avoid using the word “hate” when referring to anyone or anything – we’ve always been counted on to suggest words like “detest” or “despise” or even “strongly despise” in extreme cases – but I can without fear of reprisal say that I hate weeds.

    But I have to respect them. Only the strong survive, right? How is it that, in the midst of this drought that has resulted in us mowing our grass only once in the past month – and we only bothered to mow the patchy green spots near our downspouts and other shady areas not fried to a crisp – these weeds keep growing like…weeds?

    We have a lot of decades-old landscaping around our house and yard and several old rock beds dotted with perennials. Surely at some point long ago, great care was taken to lay plastic under the rocks to prevent weeds from sprouting, but no doubt that plastic degraded into a hopeless line of defense long ago, and the weeds for many years have been enjoying a heyday.

    I did the RoundUp thing for a few years, but afterward I was wrought with post-“I-just-saturated-all-of-my-rock-beds-with-one-of-the-most-hazardous-chemicals-on-the-planet” guilt. And, now, with a puppy running around and rooting everywhere and eating things that – in a nod to Richard Crenna as Col. Trautman in “First Blood” – would make a billy goat puke, I’m not about to apply any weed killer now.

    So I weed-whack them, with enthusiasm. I have a fairly industrial-sized whacker, though, and when I try to angle it to possibly shred some roots as well, rocks have a way of being launched into the grass and, worse yet, toward vehicles in the driveway and windows on the house.

    So that leaves me, using my hands, and, one after another, ripping these summer-ruiners out of the ground. The vine-like one that ensnares peonies and any other perennials within reach, it’s almost like a scene from a horror film. And the two weed strains that grow outward along the ground and spread far and wide while also sending a root deep into the dirt, I think they grow around four inches a day. I lost track of one last week for, I don’t know, maybe three days, and when I came across it, it dwarfed a manhole cover. It would have looked at home in the Mesozoic Era. When I got my hand around its stem and prepared to give it a big tug upward, I didn’t know if I was going to pull it up, or if it was going to pull me down, plunging me screaming and flailing into some sort of weed-infested hellish abyss.

    But, I suppose, the solstice is behind us now. We’re losing a bit of daylight each day. One of these fine weeks, if climate change will allow it, maybe I’ll stroll into the back porch one morning and make note of the “fall chill” in the air, and that winter is coming.

    A nanosecond after that, maybe my wife will kick me out of the house, and, on the plus side, put some needed distance between me and these damn weeds.