These solemn geographies our limits, and yet. We persist in aiming to be where we are not. If the first myth was of some beyond outside, the next was that it was assembled of infinities––in defiance of the limits that confront us at each breath.
What creatures are we, to be embedded with impulses to defy our own natures and nature itself? The first way we did this was to presume to give her a proper name, capital-N, and place her outside.
After that, we would not recognize what breathed against the window, fogging the glass through which we meant to keep an eye on her wild beyonds, out there.
Sure, you can try to recover it, as you say, carefully filming this walk into woods, but consider the violence of a name. Nature, as in outside, as in opposite of this separate, sanitized, self-satisfied sanity. I am not fit, perhaps, to hold it on my tongue, so unrefined is my palate. Sure, this is one way to defend your dominion. No one can touch you. No one can touch the finery of such an idea whose hands are still furred with dirt.
Tracing lines of exile and return, from and to ourselves.
When we first moved into nature, we called it only looking, as with mirrors, but it’s one thing to know this and another to decide to be some deviation from the atmosphere. Ancient builders, considering the return of certain dreams, had sense enough to use the shadows cast by upright poles as tracing lines for temple architecture.
What made the created world less natural than, say, the beehive? On the one hand, maybe it was hubris, but it might have also been the practice of hoarding, to a degree not unlike the mythical cave dragons, those other anomalies.
The question lives in oscillation, tracing celestial lines of sight and we stand, sometimes still as solstices and just as briefly, before pulling back the orbital bodies of our dominion just when they seem to be slipping forever beyond our grasp, and the offerings that follow tend to synchronize with the rise and declination of the countless hidden orbs of shattered once-whole light that some say broke on arrival, leaving a legacy of singular purpose: find it––and this is shrouded, too.
The opposite of weed is welcome: meaning, someone is asking for or seeking out the thing. Because someone is always seeking out the thing other than what is abundantly here. As in, there is the prize. Here is the weed. The weeds are abundantly here, but the prized harvest is elsewhere; there are the treasures, there the celebration. To mean something was to be somewhere Far Away, glimpsed for a moment. Invasive species must have looked like such a harvest, in the moments before anyone figured out what they were.
I learned about this the first time I ever picked weeds–– I called them flowers, then; I didn’t know any better–– that were abundant in the yard. I was barefoot, bending down, starting with the delicate yellow petals of mustard, bright faces turned up, offering themselves.
I dropped to my knees at the sight of them, pulled carefully as close to the earth as I could, taking only three ––a round number, my grandmother’s trinity of beginning, now and ever after, and then––farther from the concrete sidewalk, I found the dancing orchard grasses, their wild heads extending like Fourth of July sparklers from their stems.
I laughed to meet them, and they laughed back, waving in rowdy groups, loitering along the neighbor’s wall, telling raucous jokes and cracking roasts about each other’s untamed manes, each one wilder than the next.
There was one group, they could not be separated; when I pulled near the base where they were cracking up, they all came up. They appeared to be willing in chorus, to join the lowly mustard, and me.
There were grasses toward the wildest corner, which were stronger and thicker than the rest. They were very regal and stately, their blades long and wide, slightly furred. I gathered them, too, for balance and symmetry.
I brought them inside, an offering. It is no fun for mothers when they have to break things to their children, like the difference between the world’s leading lenses and their own.
“Those are weeds,” mine told me, quite matter-of-fact. Still, she graciously accepted, filling a dixie cup with half an inch of water and placing my motley bouquet inside, for display at the kitchen table for the remainder of the afternoon.
The import of these words rolled as quickly off of me as anything else. It wasn’t until much later, after at least a decade of school, that I considered them again, as the first lesson in something about established orders.
“What are weeds?” I had asked.
“They are the plants no one wants,” she told me, careful to add that such prejudice did not apply here, where the weeds were proudly displayed, for a whole afternoon, in the water of a dixie cup.
I had so little practice at the time, with rules for the classification of lives. How some were deemed worthy and others worthy of execution by committee and pesticide. School was coming, and I would have many more opportunities to learn how the living, examined under the lens of the machine, could be sorted and separated into categories of prized and rejected, in ways that could indefinitely keep us from ourselves.
Now when I think of it, I am grateful to be old enough to have encountered the sort of living that makes me understand the way that opposing truths may breathe side by side, like the unnecessary and the desperately sought; like salvation and discarded; like the thing that you meant to get rid of, and the thing that was saving your blind and desperate life, all along, with the calm of knowing what was once, is now, and ever would be, in this world of never-ending limits of what may.