Weeding Induced Meditation

| Blog, Ilse Gebhard

by Ilse Gebhard, KAWO member

Spotted Knapweed (I. Gebhard)

That’s right.  Weeding, not weed, induced meditation.

Wikipedia defines meditation as a practice of mindfullness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Meditation may significantly reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and enhance peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being. One practice of meditation is the repetition of a mantra, where a mantra is an utterance, a sound, a syllable, word or group of words. 

Garlic Mustard (I. Gebhard)

Definitions out of the way, at our former home we had large areas landscaped with native plants. Native plants are those that were here before settlement started in the 1830’s. Native plants, having evolved with our climate and soils, are environmentally more sustainable than the plants originating from other parts of the world. Once established, native plants don’t need watering, don’t need fertilizer, and treating them with pesticide would defeat the purpose of attracting insects without which life on earth, as we know it, would collapse.

Swamp White Oak (R. Schipper)

The one thing that these native plantings do require is some weeding to keep out non-native invasive species like spotted knapweed and garlic mustard. While weeding, I would often find myself silently repeating a word or even two. I remember two such mantras – blue jay and acorn. 

I remember hearing a red-tailed hawk calling from a nearby tree, instantly followed by a blue jay calling from the same tree. Either there was a hawk present and the blue jay was giving an alarm call or the blue jay was just having fun with me. Blue jays can uncannily imitate the call of red-tailed hawks and I concluded blue jay, blue jay, blue jay….

Black Oak (R. Schipper)

As for the word acorn, I had found a small pile of acorns stashed underneath the dead foliage of the previous year’s plants. Leaving dead foliage in a planting provides a place for insects to overwinter and food for many tiny soil-building critters. The dead foliage can also act as mulch, keeping moisture in the soil and keeping unwanted plants from germinating whose seeds might have been in the seed bank for many years and still viable. We had oak trees on the property but none near this full-sun spot. So how did the acorns get there? Squirrels and blue jays are known to cache acorns in the fall and this might be one cache that was forgotten.