Monday, January 14, 2013

"A Plot for Weeds"

I opened Dag Hammarskjold's Markings this morning, a Goodwill find, purchased because I remembered that my father admired him and because W. H. Auden wrote the foreword. Hammarskjold, Secretary-General of the United Nations for two terms in the 1950s, and a handsome Scandinavian, pulls no punches in this book. He writes:

"You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn't reserve a plot for weeds."

Them's powerful words! And what a title for a book or movie--A Plot for Weeds. I don't know about you, my friend, but R.H. and I do not set out on purpose to grow a fine crop of weeds, although if you could see our front garden by late July each year, you might think we had bought many packets of seed labeled "Various Weeds," and sowed them liberally. No, weeds may run rampant here due to neglect but we didn't set out to cultivate them. It is the nature of weeds to proliferate when your back is turned.

Now you know that I could easily write a parallel lecture here to myself and you about the "weeds" we let into our life--from television, movies, life itself, purely from neglect or apathy--soon sending out roots until the perennial beds of our lives are savaged beyond repair. I'm not going to because we already know that, don't we? And I need a bit of cheer here in Tennessee where our few days in the 70s said "bye-bye" today, and it's dark, cold, sleeting and the first mention of the dreaded black ice has been mentioned on the local news for tonight.

Although Hammarskjold is not always a cheerful chap in his book, I stumbled across some mighty pretty picture words he wrote that make me think this man might not be as intimidating as I thought:

"A line, a shade, a color--their fiery expressiveness.
The language of flowers, mountains, shores, human bodies:
the interplay of light and shade in a look,
the aching beauty of a neckline,
the grail of the white crocus on the alpine meadow in the morning sunshine--
words in a transcendental language of the season."

I sigh. Ah, he gets it. He's not only brilliant and discerning, he is a man of sensitivity and tenderness, too.  Obviously he has seen and remembered and can visualize not only nature's infinite beauty but "the aching beauty of a neckline." Have you ever read a more innately pure yet more sensual description of what a woman's d├ęcolletage can be when it's done right? I'm glad that Secretary-General Hammarskjold included this line. It helps me like him more, this man who doesn't suffer fools gladly. 

What does this last have to do with weeds? Maybe not a thing, but one does have to keep the weeds pulled from around the lilies in the garden in order to appreciate their lines, their color, their aching beauty. Weeds. Does anyone actually like weeding? Scout's honor?

It's a jungle out there!


  1. What a wonderful post- He certainly had a way with words, didn't he? I do NOT like pulling weeds- I know some people do and find it relaxing. I find it a chore! A BIG chore- xo Diana

  2. Thank you for the extracts from this book. I had no idea that Dag H was such a poetic as well as profound writer. You present him so well that I am hooked and will try to track down a copy of Markings.
    It sounds as if your winter is just beginning. I hope you'll introduce us to your garden in spring. My garden is my delight in spring and early summer but it looks rather sad right now. Our months of rain have taken their toll but I'm trusting in Mother Nature to repair the damage.

  3. Yes, actually I love pulling weeds! I find it therapeutic, I lose myself for hours in my small garden ..and that's great because from what I hear its a fortune to get someone to do it by hand...loved this post!

  4. I loved those quotes. That looks like my backyard. We are rich here...growing dollar weeds like crazy! Some days I find pulling weeds therapeutic...some days, overwhelming!

  5. Yes, thank you for introducing me to Markings as well. I will put it on my list for reading. Powerful imagery!

  6. I read Markings back in the 90's, and remember it as an eloquent and elegant read. You are quite a writer yourself, Dewena. It seems you've found your creative outlet in this blog. And no, I don't enjoy pulling weeds. Scouts honor.

  7. I enjoyed this post Dewena. I remember Dag Hammarskjold . Probably the only U.N. Secretary General I will ever remember. Your words make me want to read Markings.

    As for weeds in the garden; J finds weeding therapeutic. We've both done lots of life weeding. That has been therapeutic, as well.

  8. I hate weeds and weeding. It's maddening when weeds grow where the plants are thick. You would think there would be not room. There was a building torn down in our town and in the skinniest place possible, between the buildings, were weeds. Looks like your gardener is on top of things :):) xo,Susie

  9. We could learn a lot from weeds,no matter how hard of a time they have they never give up.

  10. Those are powerful words; thanks for this post. It's been years since I picked up's time to do so again.


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