Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Clinging

For a bit of balance in these frantic days of environmental justice organizing here are some considerations on attachment, clinging and the tenacity of comfrey:

On Clinging

It’s that time of year.  The comfrey has emerged and threatens to take over the whole garden in its usual way.  I have begun my second year attempting to eradicate it.  Yes, this plant that I love, an ancient healing herb, eradicate it.  Our first spring in this house, almost twelve years ago, I was thrilled to find a small bed of symphytum officinale, seemingly contained by our neighbor’s dilapidated asphalt roof tile spewing garage to it’s rear, the driveway in front, a neighbor’s fence to the east and some of that black plastic garden border stuff to the west.

Comfrey leaves can be made into a poultice and applied to skin around a broken bone.  It is a highly effective homeopathic remedy as well.  It is a heavy feeder and the leaves can enhance the mix in the compost pile.  I fell in love with its blue flowers, a bundle of little bells at the end of each stem.  The almost royal blue campanulata seems to have its own internal glow – the bells take on a pink tinge near the end of their life.  Visiting bees love our little comfrey patch.  It is where all of our cats are buried.  I would bring those musky green leaves and luminous blossoms to workshops I was staffing not only for their beauty; I believed (and still do) that they bring a humble healing force to a room.

But it’s got to go.  I knew that last year when it had invaded the potato beds, poked through the composter and showed up in the moon bed.  Strawberries planted in its midst had died as had two cherry trees.  The root system of any one plant could go on for yards.  The problem with being attached to a plant, or anything, even something so fragile and evanescent, so seemingly temporary, means that letting go of it can be tricky.  I spent several days last summer trying to dig up the comfrey before it blossomed.  I wasn’t sure I would have the heart to continue, the resolve.  And I didn’t.  The little bells waved at me, the bees and other pollinators gathered and I gave up.

So this year I am starting earlier, determination renewed.  I recognize this attachment to something so thoroughly useful yet entirely invasive is not uncommon in a life.  Recognizing the grossly unskillful, actions and things that are fundamentally fruitless is easier I suppose, the angst or guilt over entertaining such states more vivid.  But more often it is some harmless thing we own or love to do that pokes at us, jams our frequencies, distracts our attempts at mindfulness, like that comfrey in the potato bed.

This year my plan is to dig at the comfrey until no green leaves are readily apparent.  I know next year a few plants will emerge.  Those roots are tenacious.  It can take years to completely remove them.  So be it.  An hour a day.  If I keep at it I’ll be finished before … And I’ll find some other treat for the bees.

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