Sunday, April 29, 2012

One person's weed is another person's flower

This weekend we were responsible for the house chores in our building. The responsibility moves from tenant to tenant each week so that we all share in keeping the grounds clean and the place kept up. Although it's not a requirement in our house ordinance, Big R has on the rare occassion mowed the lawn. With the temperatures rising, this weekend the lawn really needed it. The weeds had taken over and the lawn had a hectic feel to it. Big R was crazy busy this week, so I knew if the lawn was to be mowed, the chore was landing on my shoulders to get it done.

The landlord seemed a little taken aback that I wanted to do this arduous chore. That, or maybe he was just really wishing Big R had been here to do it. He was probably afraid I was going to break his fancy lawnmowing machine (and he has reason to be, I'm sure). And it was a chore. That fancy machine was crazy to operate, and little r ran around the building a million times and tormented the neighbors while I worked my way through the weeds. My neighbor gave me a pensive look when she saw me start the mower. I'm sure she was thinking the last thing the building needed was our landlord's expecting us all to mow the lawn!

Well, at least that's what I "thought" she was thinking. When I had a nightcap with them last night, she teased me and said that I cut down all the dandelions. It took me a minute of back and forth before I realized she truly liked them and was sad to see them gone. Back home those pesky things are weeds that take over your lawn and destroy everything. They are awful, and people spend good money on weed killers and other fancy lawn care systems just to get rid of them. It never occurred to me that someone would find those yellow "flowers" pretty. Would you?

I actually felt bad about cutting them down. Well, bad and insensitive. The idea never crossed my mind to leave them for awhile. She said that she actually enjoyed how pretty the bright yellow colors are against the green lawns. Then she teased, that she enjoyed them only for a little bit - maybe two weeks - and then we could get rid of them.

A colleague and good friend of mine back when I lived and worked in California (which feels eons ago now), once said to me, "one person's weed is another person's flower." Might seem like an odd comment, but he was a botanist and we did an insane amount of field reconnaissance work together tredging through wetlands and documenting plants. It came up one day when I found myself oogling a flower that he despised because it was an invasive plant that was introduced the region and killing all the native vegetation. I couldn't get that phrase out of my head all night. I cut down and destroyed something that was beautiful to someone else. And that really bothered me for awhile.

Being here in Germany has really forced me to open my mind and accept that there are many ways to view things in life. I'm guilty of being that person that was probably often too quick to judge others, and now I'm finding that I am much more accepting of things even when I don't agree with them.

Not a one of us is perfect, and everyone leads a different life with varying cultures and challenges. Very few of us come from the same place, and even when we do, how we were raised changes everything. The environmentalist in me used to always say, "tread lightly," when I actually think what I truly mean is, "tread responsibly." Walk through life being considerate of both your surroundings and those that surround you. This is something I want to practice in my life and something that I hope to instill in little r's mind as well.

I'm not sure this means I won't attack those dandelions with gusto. Regardless of how much my friend loves them, it has been programmed too richly into my mind that it is an invasive weed that takes over law and your flowers. I will say though, that I found myself today looking at those "flowers" more closely and appreciating them a bit more through a different perspective.

Have you ever experienced a moment like this one where you see things from a completely different view?


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