An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of December 10, 2007
Issued from the woods just south of Natchez, Mississippi, USA


One of my favorite times of the day is late afternoon as soft, golden sunlight slants in low from the west illuminating my gardens. Illuminating my "weeds" might be a more honest way of saying it, for I don't deny that unless I have a definite reason for removing a weed, it gets to stay. Partly that's from my belief that diversity strengthens any complex system, even a garden (the Pokeweed's purple, juicy berries draws a Yellow-breasted Chat into the garden, who then also eats hornworms on my tomatoes), and another part is that I just like weeds, like looking at them, thinking about them.

One afternoon I was grinning at all the commotion in one of my weed patches -- all the bees going after their last nectar and pollen of the day, all the wasps looking for one more spider for provisioning their broods, all the hummingbirds getting one last sup at the Cypress Vines -- when a certain question occurred to me: If I had had children, would I have raised them like weeds? Would I have allowed my children the liberties to go where their inclinations led them, the way I permit my weeds to behave?

Probably my child-rearing philosophies would have changed over the years. Most of you know that I was a very fat kid, weighing 340 pounds the day I decided to take control of my life. I look back now at the self discipline and severe living regimens I imposed upon myself in those days and just shake my head, half amazed at the intensity of it all, and half ashamed at my unforgiving single-mindedness. I fear any child conceived during those years would have suffered from my strict formulas and rules.

I once had neighbors who raised their five kids like weeds. Basically the girls got pregnant in highschool and the boys ended up drug-heads and in jail. Weediness, Mother Nature teaches, is an effective strategy in chaotic, pioneer situations, but it's little appreciated in highly regulated, conformity-minded urban life.

Still, sometimes at dusk when the sunlight falls especially nicely in some particularly rank corner of one of my weed-jungles, it's almost as if the moment were wondering aloud what a weedy kid of mine might have been like. Facebook Icon.