violette

violette
Heart's ease - an infusion was said to help mend a broken heart

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Don't call them weeds

A couple of people have asked me about the violas illustrating this blog. They know I'm not really a gardening-y floral sort of person, so why have I chosen that picture? I told them to look out for a blogpost relating the story...

The garden to my parents' house in Italy contained an area of impacted soil covered with small stones and shingle, through which would peep all sorts of weeds, plus some wild strawberries and violas. Whenever I did any weeding for them I never had the heart to rip up what I designated as non-weeds. The violette in particular looked so sweetly jaunty and individual, each one with its cheeky little face... how could I possibly kill them by uprooting them and then throw them onto a heap of weeds?

What, after all, is a weed except for a flower out of place? Mary Douglas famously defined dirt as "matter out of place": in other words, soil is fine when it is outdoors, in its rightful place, but becomes dirt when it is trailed across the living room carpet - and the same surely applies to flowers and weeds.

When I returned after my parents' deaths to clear the house a whole army of violette was there to greet me. They had taken over a whole area of the garden, literally hundreds of them, everywhere but in the flowerbeds! The sight of them, their colours and cuteness, cheered me immensely; they truly were "heart's ease" for a grieving woman. In subsequent weeks I enjoyed inviting neighbours to "come and see my weeds!" - and, of course, I took as many photos of them as I could.

Those "weeds" also reminded me of a poem written by one of the homeless people with whom I worked in Hackney 10 or more years ago. I have no idea where or how the poet is (or even if he's still alive), but his words live on for me, testament to endurance and defiance of the odds, and a reminder of the poet that dwells within each one of us, regardless of externals.

There will be a place
for weeds to grow.

They are plants that have strayed
from elsewhere, dropped by birds
blown on the wind.

And don't call them weeds,
they are tough, survivors on
waste-ground, pushing up
through concrete.

Cheeky flowers out of place... heart's ease... tough survivors... those little violette have been a Godsend and a lesson; they tell me much about the human spirit and its tremendous capacity, and remind me of my own call as an RSCJ to be heart's ease for others.

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