Why weeds are an invitation to look again and see something else: a photo essay from Kera Willis

Kera Willis, writer, poet, singer-songwriter, dreamweaver, Mountain Horse School founder and teacher, shared a photo essay of weeds the other week and gave permission for us to post it here.

Here are her ponderings, which are kind of a hymn, in my opinion, and no doubt will inform a song, because I dare you to read this and not see a few lines that are lyrics:

I shot a photo essay of one of the last vacant lots on Cleveland Ave yesterday.

If you want to study vitality and true expression, look to plants after a rain.

I tried to walk by this corner several times and just kept getting called back.

People on the sidewalk looked at me. I smiled. To speak, then, would have broken it. And, confused, they smiled back, and kept walking.

If you love something and mean it, it comes through your eyes.

The amount of diversity and medicine on this patch of gravel soon destined to be a gas station and yet more condos blew me away. The size of the plants. It was as if they’d set themselves up as a gallery of exuberant expression; life doing what it does best, which is to live, live, live, without regard for what is coming, without care that they are ‘weeds’ (weeds will survive and outlast us anyway, and while they do, generously give themselves as food and medicine), without concern or care that no one has noticed except for me, to live, live, live simply because there is a bare patch of ground and water.

How did all these seeds get here? A few years ago this was bare gravel. Now there is red clover, white clover, rattlesnake plantain, cat’s ear, red dock, st John’s wort, thistle, Himalayan blackberry, yellow broom, and a handful of others I can’t name.

The earth waits for opportunity and when it comes, she speaks sentences made of weeds. Weeds and invasives, who hold the ground when no one else can, who build and heal the soil until the trees can return.

This is what we are now. The ecosystems are no longer separate, geographical boundaries of exquisite and alien-to-the-other diversity.

All the edges have become soft.

The paper is wet and so all ink bleeds.

We are at the time of weeds.

Can we find a crack in the pavement, set roots and flower foolishly and profusely enough that our daring and wild exuberance draws someone else into our spell and brings them to their knees and lifts them up all at the same time? Calls them to stop what they are doing and walk in among us– so we can give nectar and pollen and have them carry our essence, the secrets coded in our dna, to the next vacant lot, the next place wounded and aching for remediation.

This dance will outlast us all. The plants are patient. They will wait. And in the meantime, for those who choose to look, and feel, then– this medicine is a gift.

Kera Willis

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