3 Life Lessons from Yard Work

Image for post
Image for post
The lilac hedge behind my house.

They’re not in bloom right now, but we have a hedge of lilac bushes growing by the fence that separates our yard from our back door neighbor. I love the smell of lilacs in full bloom.

My wife and I built our home in 2004 when our oldest child was still small enough to walk under the kitchen table without hitting his head. (He’s six feet tall now). I grew up in a home with a yard, but somehow remained mostly ignorant to the amount of work required to maintain a home and a yard. I feel extremely blessed to live in an area of the world where I can own a home and the land it sits on.

For many years, I dreaded yard work. Winter was my favorite season because it meant only occasionally having to shovel snow. It was a great day for me when our oldest was finally able to push the lawn mower around the yard cutting the grass (mostly). As each of our five children have grown, they’ve all increased in capability to do yard work which meant less for me.

A few weeks ago, I was outside mowing the lawn while my oldest was off camping with friends. I was near the lilacs and something caught my eye.

A close-up. Do you see what I see?
A giant thistle growing in the middle of my lilacs

Even though I haven’t necessarily enjoyed yard work, I try not to ignore my yard so I was very surprised to find this giant weed (over 6 feet tall) growing in the middle of my favorite bushes.

This thistle was a hard weed to remove. Even with puncture resistant gloves, I was having trouble finding a place to grip the weed without my hands getting impaled by the long spines. Eventually, I cut it down with a pair of branch clippers.

Needless to say, I paid plenty of attention to my yard for a few weeks after this.

After my diligence wore off, I went a few weeks without touching the yard again. This morning, I walked out to find this:

A milk weed forest.
Me: 1. Milk weeds: 0

3 Life Lessons

Lesson #1: Life Requires Consistent Maintenance

If you need it, there’s a growing body of research that suggests we’re way too stressed out as a society and individuals. We have to stop at regular intervals and clear out the weeds: the to do’s that don’t really contribute to our health and well-being.

The yard and life both require constant attention. You may not have time to pull weeds everyday, but it’s a good idea — essential, even — that we maintain our lives everyday. The maintenance isn’t hard, but does require effort. The three key ingredients: eat healthy (including drinking enough water), get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.

Lesson #2: Life Requires Connections

There are few ways to connect with the earth more immediately than simply walking out your door, getting down on your hands and knees, and pulling some weeds.

I believe we’ve all been given stewardship over the earth. The earth provides everything we need to live and we need to take care of it. I believe the resources here are for our use, but responsibly.

Anytime we connect with the earth, we’re reminded of that.

Our lives are the same way.

To varying degrees, we have stewardship in our lives. In it’s simplest definition, a steward is someone who contributes to the well-being of other people. The means other people are our stewards. As we exercise real stewardship, we have to make meaningful daily connections with the people around us to really live.

Lesson #3: Life Requires Effort

None of the weeds I’ve dealt with recently were going to disappear on their own. Sure, I could have gone out and sprayed them with something toxic, but then my yard would just be covered with the shriveled corpses of the weeds reminding me that I took the easy way out.

The meaningful daily connections I mentioned in the previous section require effort. We have to show up. That generally means putting down our electronics, looking someone in the eye, and engaging with them.

Really living requires that we laugh.

Real living requires that we love.

Sometimes, you have to both of those things to get out and pull weeds. And, you always have to do those things to really live.

Married to my best friend. Father to five exuberant children. Fledgling entrepreneur. Writer. Software developer. Inventory management expert.

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