Weeding 101

“Make sure you pull out the weed with its root”, my grandfather would instruct me lovingly, over the garden sounds of the water sprays emerging from hoses, whistling leaks at the garden faucets and the chirping of birds in dark trees silhouetted against the dawn.
I was but a teenager or younger, impatient to boot, loving our time together in his garden but unappreciative of his requirement for thoroughness.  Both, my years in boarding school and my demanding parents before and since then had appeared to care only about one metric, one measure of success… “Was the job you set out to do completed?” If the evidence suggested that it was, then it was proof enough. So without knowing it, and without anyone intending it, my reactions, even my instincts were honed to present successful, quick and efficient completions. It didn’t always matter that I didn’t pull every weed out by its root or wash every dirty dish with soap or clean the tires on the car at the end of the long carwash ritual. As long as the weeds were no longer physically evident, the dishes looked washed and the car appeared clean what did it matter?
…Or did it matter?
In those heady days of youth, time was of the essence so I could move onto my next thing, the attaboy from the completion of work was needed for the reassurance that reverberated from it while the penalty of slower, deliberate and thorough work was never considered or incurred. So I adopted this mode of doing things, of settling issues quickly but not always conclusively and of glossing over things, making fixes superficial instead of foundational. Getting deep inside the engine room to attend to root cause was not required if I could just bandaid the carburetor! The investment of time, learning and patience to understand things more deeply and to find and implement the correct fix always seemed a bar too high to go after.
Somewhere in the last forty years I learned about that virtue of thoroughness, began seeing the wisdom in the pursuit of perfection and have come to appreciate the difference between what it means to do the job and what it means to do it right. No one person takes the credit for this epiphany nor did it come abruptly. The universe took its time to teach me.
So this morning, forty years on from that day in the garden I am weeding the flower bed in my own front yard assisted by my daughter. She sits on the ground and with intent and deliberation pulls weeds in a small patch between two shrubs. As I look at the long length of flower bed ahead of us I catch myself just in time… I was about to rush her, to quicken her pace, demand completion over quality…about to send her back to my garden from forty years ago. Instead I say nothing, I slow down to enjoy the moment with her and decide that my silence at and encouragement of her detailed work, albeit slow, is the better life lesson that I can teach.


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