We were walking, somewhere, and he said something about that "wild violet," gesturing to a little violet that was blooming in between the cracks of a sidewalk.
"That's not a wild violet!" I protested. "It's in the middle of a city!"
"Yes, it is," he insisted. "It's not in a garden. It's sprung up on its own, so it's wild."
I laughed. That statement was so very far, far beyond my personal definition of the word wild, the assertion did something crazy in my head. It took a word that, for me, meant everything the furthest of the far, as remote as possible, from the city, and plopped it down in a crack in the sidewalk in the heart of the city. I disagreed so utterly, so very, very utterly, that it was hard to explain, and yet, I could see the point.
I think I tried to argue, but with that particular boyfriend there was never any hope of arguing my own point, so eventually I let it lie.
But ever since then, I've wondered, what truly is wild? And, now that I have a garden of my own in a yard I own, for me the question is also associated with what makes a plant a weed.
To a poet and writer, this is a question about words. But to a gardener, it is also a question about practice. And to a poet and thinker, or, let's be candid, to me, that conjunction is a fascinating conjunction. What defines the word "weed," for me as a writer? And for me as a gardener, what makes me pull a plant because it is a "weed." And, to take it one step further, what makes me pull the weed, rather than spray it with Round-up, which I've already written elsewhere, is something I won't do, except in extreme cases. Are all those the same thing? No, I don't think so. Not at all.
And what does any of that have to do with the word wild? Not sure yet. We'll see.
To a certain sort of gardener, namely me, even weeds can be amazingly beautiful plants. Useful, too. And so, for me, the question of whether something is a weed is not a question of defining what a weed is, but where it is a weed. Let me give you some examples.
This is shotweed. I never knew what it was, had never seen it, until last spring, when it sprang up everywhere in my yard. I think it's pretty. Besides which, it's way cool. It spits its seed, and not just any old time, only when it's touched. After it sets seed, when you brush it, the seed springs out everywhere, in every direction. It gives me joy, the kind of joy I had as a child, and so I love this particular weed and won't pull it, no matter where it is.
So, not to make a long post longer, here is my assertion: What is in the wild is not a weed.
But my yard is not the wild. And so that could mean that a plant that is in my yard as a weed might be valuable as a piece of the wild secreted in my (not very tame) yard.
And that, I think, is why I sometimes don't pull weeds. Even though I know they're weeds. To me, they're a way of living with the wild. Protecting a bit of it. Engaging with it. Loving it. Holding it. Letting it be.
I will, though, eat them. I had a very nice dandelion salad for lunch yesterday, a meal of three dandelions I pulled from the backyard. Though, as I said to Capel, at that rate, I could have salad every day for a year and not make a dent in the dandelions ...
But that dandelion, it will no doubt have the last word.