A LIFE MORE ORDINARY - "What Happened To The Blackberries?"

(04/19/2004)

By Gaylen Duskey

realfang@citlink.net

Saturday with a warm April sun beating down and the beautiful music of a chorus of songbirds performing in the background, I took on the task of removing a nasty growth of weeds and brush from the rock wall at the back of our yard.

It had been a long time since anyone had attacked the wall … probably 10 or more years. But I have to admit the last two years were of my own doing. The first year we had bigger fish to fry as we did a lot of work on the house. It was, I reasoned, a good thing and we could let the weeds and brush alone for a while.

The second year Linda was fighting breast cancer and did not feel well. I left the weeds and brush alone. It was, I reasoned, a better thing to do to take care of Linda and not worry about the brush and weeds. This year the thing I had been putting off – and reasoning why it was OK to put it off – had to be addressed. The weeds and brush had to go. As I headed into the mess I decided to cut the first layer first … clear it from the top.

Layer by layer the mess was removed and as I got down closer to the bottom I felt just awful about what I was finding – blackberry vines. The vines were for the most part long dead, killed by the weeds that had been neglected for so long.

But some of the vines survived. No, actually, they adapted. There were vines that were about 10 feet tall that had grown up through the weeds. It was their method to get the sun and rain they needed to survive. But they were thick and had no leaves on them at the bottom. They were coarse and ugly and more than likely are unable of producing edible berries.

But that is the way with gardens. If the gardener leaves the weeds untended too long they will grow to have a deleterious effect on the rest of the garden either killing the plants we want to live or forcing them into some kind of mutated form – a form they must have adapted to, to survive – that are not what we wanted or needed.

I know that happened to the blackberries.

It also happens in real life. We see a problem but we do not act on it. We let it grow and fester for one reason or another until it has had an effect like the weeds did on the blackberries. We all are guilty of that malaise. Then there are the times we do things for all the right reasons with all good intentions. And it goes wrong but for one reason or another we fail to act, whether the reason being we are enamored with the thing we have done and do not wish to change it or that we are simply too lazy to act. In the real world, for instance, Lyndon Johnson when President of the United States made a move for all the right reasons when he formed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which expanded our actions in Vietnam and basically gave us the Vietnam War.

It was a big mistake.

But a bigger mistake still was sticking with the resolution. It ended up costing him a presidency while sending our country into turmoil that still today – 35 or 40 years later – is a touchy subject to many people.

Let’s put this into terms better suited for our area – multiflora roses. About 50 years ago these roses were introduced as a panacea for our problems. They were supposed to provide a living fence while being beautiful. As it turned out they were neither and they quickly took over a lot of good farmland.

Was the farmer to blame? No. Hadn’t he planted those roses for all the right reasons? But, in the end, yes he was. When he saw the roses were a nuisance and not a panacea he did not act in time to rid the countryside of them. The same thing happened in my garden. No one, not the previous owners or I, did anything about the weeds and brush until the blackberry vines had suffered greatly.

I wonder how many other blackberries will have to suffer before other gardeners decide to eradicate the weeds?


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