When I lived in Barrow, I had a fairly self-righteous attitude about people who despoiled our earth for their own selfish purposes. That attitude cast a pretty wide net from the communist leaders of Eastern Europe who allowed so much of their earth to be polluted beyond human comprehension to people who used deadly weed killers on their lawns and poisoned the earth.
Of course in Barrow the people had a long cultural tradition of protecting and preserving their land for their children and grandchildren. Besides which, it’s not as though there were thriving lawns that needed protection from unwanted plants. After a long Arctic winter of white, anything that was green was welcomed. Nothing was considered a weed. In true Inupiat tradition, we opened our arms wide to any and all plants that wanted to grow where we lived.
Once, I actually got a patch of tundra to grow along the side of my house. It took years of patiently freezing up my pipes in the winter and having them burst under the house so that there was always standing water to nourish that little patch in the spring. Eventually it became something of which I was quite proud. I didn’t have to water it. Didn’t have to weed it. Didn’t have to mow it. And certainly didn’t have to decide what should or should not grow there.
Every day of our short summer I could gaze down from my living room window and see the tundra even though Barrow had grown so big that the actual tundra was no longer visible from my house.
Then I moved to Anchorage and found out that some green things are good and some are not so good. When I asked a nascent gardener who had also just recently arrived from Barrow how he would define weeds, he said, “Anything that’s growing there that you didn’t plant.”
Well, I thought that was a pretty narrow-minded definition of weeds. After all, some of the prettiest flowers in my garden had been planted there by the birds and the bees. I know I sure hadn’t planted them. And so I went through my first two summers in Alaska in blissful ignorance of just how much weeds should annoy me.
For some reason, this year I thought I should have a planted garden area around my house with pretty flowers. This idea came to me soon after my trip east in May when I saw how pretty my sister’s flowers were. I went to a local nursery with visions of English gardens dancing in my head and bought one of every perennial I could find. I figured I’d only have to do this once if I did the ones that came back on their own each year.
I planted and I watered. I fed them as directed. And soon I had a lovely garden of chickweed and dandelions surrounding the occasional flowering plant. I did everything I could to avoid weed killers. I pulled them up one day only to find that by the next they had multiplied to fill every vacant space at twice the density. I used earth friendly formulas to discourage them. I spoke to them about the fact that they owned the entire lawn so they should be willing to give me this little patch for my flowers. They didn’t care.
So I went to a gardening store and bought a weed killer that had a skull and cross bones on it and a label that read, “Dangerous for any living thing smaller than an elephant. Apply only if completely encased in clothing with it’s own independent breathing apparatus.
And I sprayed this all over my garden. Sure some of my flowers bit it. But they were expendable when the larger picture was being considered. Sure my dog will not be able to go near the garden for 20 years or until the grass nearby stops glowing. But most of the chickweed is gone. And I could swear some of the dandelions actually look a little ill.
I didn’t mean to pollute the earth. I never meant to hurt Mother Nature. But this is war now. And I will take no prisoners and show no mercy.