“Why do you build me up, Buttercup baby, just to let me down and mess me around, and worst of all, you never call, baby, when you say you will, but I love you still….” Song by the Foundations (Want to listen: Clink this link Buttercup song )
I have liked buttercups since I was a child. I have loved buttercups since Doug and I were married. I should probably say that Doug and I married the weekend after my college graduation. We had summer jobs and I had a teaching job for the fall, but we had no money. Doug’s beloved uncle, Uncle Jack, had bought two cottages on Lake Chautauqua where for a month every summer Doug’s family vacationed. So, when Uncle Jack, as part of a wedding present to us, offered us a week at the cottage, we were thrilled. We could have a honeymoon.
Doug’s Aunt Carlie did not come with Uncle Jack to our wedding. Traveling was difficult for her, but when we arrived at the cottage, there in the center of the table was an enormous bouquet of buttercups. Aunt Carlie told me that at the moment we were saying our vows she was picking them as a gift for us.
Yellow is my favorite color and, as I said in my last post, I have a fascination with light. Somehow, at the moment we saw them, a shaft of sunlight illuminated their joyous cheerfulness. It seemed like a blessing, a prediction of a sunny life together for us.
Now, after many happy years filled with lots of sunshine and our share of rain, I have been committing sacrilege.
When we moved to Edenton, our backyard was nothing much. Surrounded by trees, including an immense long leaf pine, it had a lot of shade, 2 gardenia bushes, 2 camellias, and a lot of bare chain link fence. As I worked at turning it into a garden, the first buttercup popped up in the grass. I was thrilled…a bit of blessing, I thought, on our life here.
What a mistake! I always thought of fields of buttercups, but not that they could turn your lawn into a field! My sister and I would pick them in the meadows behind our house, and hold the flower beneath our chins to see “if we liked butter,” a golden glow from the pollen on our chin a predictor of that. I taught this to my grandchildren as they picked the spring buttercups in my lawn, and we held them under our chins together.
Only now, I know that abundant pollen is a warning: buttercups are invasive weeds, spread by pollen and by nodules below the ground in their roots. They are almost impossible to kill with herbicides because they intertwine their roots with the roots of the grass. Kill the weed. Kill the grass. Tenacious and treacherous! (…so why did I build you up, buttercup, baby – Why?)
By the end of last summer, I looked around at spots of bare earth and finally acknowledged that my beloved buttercups had reached the point of choking out the grass.
That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks: life is filled with weeds. Not just buttercups. Different weeds. Addictive weeds. Life weeds. And just like my buttercups all are seductive. Many start by looking like flowers. Bad lovers, toxic family or friends, bad habits, the weeds of cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. overeating, overworking, all seduce us, make us think we need them in our lives, and make false promises of a happy sunny future together. But when anything starts to leave your life bare, taking over in unhealthy ways, it’s time to take action. If it limits you, redefines you, or hurts you, it’s a weed…no matter how much you love the color of its petals.
I can fight Buttercups. In the big picture, this is comparatively small and doable . Other weeds, life weeds, or addictions may need real intervention, someone or something to help, real recovery time. But all weeds have to be battled or they take over, do injury, even kill. It may be a step by step, one day at a time battle, but if you keep going you can win, at least today, at least right now.
So, this week, I have been on my knees painfully trying to dig them up individually. Hour after hour, carefully wiggling, leveraging, trying to untangle them from the grass, I have been removing them. It’s been one battle at a time trying not to leave any roots to regenerate while trying to tamp back down dirt around the remaining grass to save it, with the clock ticking down till when the buttercups bloom and blow their pollen everywhere.
After at least 15 hours spent over the last week, I have taken out hundreds, and more hundreds remain. (This is a pile of 2oo – yes, I counted them and this is just one pile of many!)The grass is growing making it harder, and I wonder how I did not realize this was a problem until it was an enormous one. Battling buttercups is more difficult than I could have ever imagined.
Yet in the midst of my battle, overnight it seemed, one plant managed to bloom. And guess what, despite all my effort, despite my aching back, my heart soared at the sight. Oh, I just couldn’t help it. You see, buttercup, “I love you still, you know I have from the start…”
I admit it. I still am so easily seduced. The first step to making a change is to admit the problem, and this is just a simple one. Real life problems, real addictions are much harder.
I don’t know if you are battling any “weeds,” or love someone who is. If so, be patient with yourselves and them. You cannot remove someone else’s problems or pluck out the weeds in other’s lives. You cannot get rid of your own weeds overnight, and one may pop up again. The battle may be a long one. That’s hard but true. But you can be a truth teller, you can call a weed a weed. You can refuse to plant any more weeds yourself, and you can offer support and caring to someone in the midst of the fight. Not easy, this is not easy…and not every battle will be won.
I have a laborious but easy one, so time to go back to my garden. I hope I win my battle. I pray you win yours.