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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thistles

Photo by Neil Bryant


Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)



In the past I've thought that there might be some weeds that I could live with if they were put in the right place. I know the good Lord made them for a purpose and perhaps I could find just the right spot where it might be happy and me as well. I read about King Ferdinand II who had a whole field planted in thistle so he could watch the goldfinches. I tried to leave a patch one year and for a week the goldfinches truly delighted me, but everyone suffered greatly for years after from multitudinous thistle. They took advantage and spread like wildfire.

We have battled thistles, the alien noxious weed for almost 30 years. Since they’re found mainly in disturbed ground and my husband is always moving dirt around “our” thistles thrive. It’s a conspiracy, while we were busy last month, they, like no other garden plant grew lush, thick, healthy and I say smug, bloomin’ ready in the heat to turn to seed which the slightest wind blows right to the ground my husband prepared. They think it was groomed just for them.

Actually, it all started with the curse. “And unto Adam he said, because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; … Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; …” Genesis3:17-18 So I decide it is bigger than me but I'm going to try to do something about them anyway.

So ignoring the goldfinch I set out every year to cut them down before they’re blooming ready. Last year by the compost pile, hacking them before they hid in the compost to multiply millions, I found a camouflaged white crowned sparrow nest in the middle of the patch, wedged between three stalks. The twined hay in a soft cup had no eggs and perhaps the nest was abandoned as it probably rose in the air from the hay pile as the thistles grew. Perhaps in my zeal to stop the multiple millions I ruined the sparrow’s chance for multiplication. Perhaps the thistle protected them from other birds and did have some use. Now I look for nests every time I hack, pull or cut.

I know neighbors have had spurts of vengeance with thistles, like the one who decided one year to pull all thistles along the road for three miles and some neighbors take vengeance with me especially when our crop blows into their gardens. So yesterday I decided again it was time for my turn against the bloom bursting thistles. The ground was dry and they healed themselves in deeply so I couldn’t dig and pull. I cut them low so they can’t easily branch blossoms, I found this out the hard way after cutting high and in two weeks I was fighting more blossoms lower on the stalks. I remember taking hours to pull and cut thistles and I laid them beside the road, no blossoms, just buds, but in the time from when I cut them and came back to dispose of them, they blossomed and went to seed even though they were uprooted! So I stuff them now into large black plastic bags and pull the ties to suffocate them. Perhaps they are screaming inside, but I don’t care. There are plenty more seeds that will soon be flying around.
There are some people in my life that are like thistles -the thorn in the flesh that stays and causes pain. They crop up and get in the way of what I consider beauty. They thrive better than me no matter what the situation. They take over when my back is turned. I can’t treat them like plants that wither and die away because they are God’s creation made in His image like me. They are in my life for a purpose. Perhaps it’s because of a curse that I can claim the blood of Jesus over or perhaps a chance for me to look at life differently and how in Christ’s name I can work with them. I can choose to look at the goldfinches they might attract or the nests they might harbor and put out my boundaries of where they can lay their feet or not and love them by God’s grace. But I don’t have to love thistles.

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