I’m very fond of the weeds we grow so successfully on Bainbridge Island. Volunteers I call them, plants that pop up wherever we don’t keep them at bay.
Weeds in my garden tend to be morning glory, thistles and dandelions. Who can hate plants with names like those? Would we like them less if they were called “morning drudgery,” “missiles” and “crappylions”? Perhaps so.
My dad said weeds are any plant growing where you don’t want it. That could be, but not always — take the beets that once grew in my garden.
One summer I carefully planted beet seed in my raised beds, and they did just OK. But a few weeks later while weeding my rose garden, I found the healthiest, biggest beet plants I’ve ever grown.
I suspect a helpful bird re-planted my beet seeds in a better spot, adding a bit of well-placed fertilizer.
Every day I drive up and down Wyatt Way, which is a year-long study of Bainbridge Island weeds. Right now lady’s mantle is fluttering above the soft grasses.
The odd thing about Wyatt Way is that it encompasses a full range of roadside fashion. At the top of the hill, between Madison and Grow, we’ve got the old Winslow style, with narrow shoulders, no bike path, and no place to walk. A strip of gravel sidles right up to the neighboring yards where fences or shrubbery offer some privacy.
Once you start downhill, the options and the road widen. For a ways there’s the gully-and-blackberry approach, where rainwater runs into a deep ditch that’s almost obscured by grasses.
During last winter’s rainstorms the ditches became raging streams culminating in a full, intersection-wide lake at the over-burdened culvert at the bottom of the hill. For now, all is dry and the blackberries promise a prolific if dusty crop.
Further down Wyatt a new development of homes has raised its sidewalk into a high, meandering path. For months I watched them bury pipes to hold the runoff and build up the hillside to meet the building sites. The sidewalk is quite charming, even if the grass planted on the steep slope is hard to water and even harder to mow.
At the south end of that sidewalk a seeded garden of wildflowers blooms prettily. Hopefully no one will be distracted and fail to notice that the sidewalk ends abruptly at the edge of the property — it’s quite a drop-off to the old ditch beyond.
On the other side of the street we have a sampling of suburbia, with a rather new curb and gutter, complete with sidewalk and parkway strip. However, this area incongruently fronts a rural plot of land, and no tidy neighborhood is carefully planting and watering the parkway. Left alone, dirt will go to weeds, and it has.
It’s interesting to me that the same plants can grow on either side of a street and where the road is left rural we see them as wildflowers or gentle grasses. They can be quite beautiful. But when they grow stuck between some strips of poured concrete we see nothing but weeds.
Some clever person has planted a parking strip with lavender carefully mulched with fine gravel. The plants are tidy and fragrant, if a bit lonely up to their necks in crushed granite. No weed dares join them.
In church a few weeks ago the lesson was the parable of the sower. We heard again about the seeds scattered with abundance along the path, some which found fertile soil and grew bushels of wheat and some which struck rocks and died.
I like parables, even when the gospel writer tells us that someone in the audience said, “Huh? What does that mean?” It’s unfortunate when you “deconstruct” a perfectly good story.
It seems to me that we on our dear island have our own Parable of Wyatt Way. It goes like this: some of the folks walking or biking on Wyatt Way found themselves out in traffic where their very lives were in danger. Some were even run off into a deep ditch.
Along another part of the road some traveled on wide bike paths and smooth sidewalks, although what had been a garden turned into messy weeds. Here, not much of beauty survived, but safety and sameness thrived. Some took the sidewalk to nowhere, a winding path upward to a future unknown and unpredictable.
And at the bottom of the hill where Weaver crosses Wyatt, some were able to take a turn to the right and stroll along a flat, meandering sidewalk laced with excellent blackberries and a view of the lovely meadow on the left. Some even walked from the baseball diamonds to the gravel path along the Eagle Harbor seashore, where they followed a scenic short-cut all the way into Winslow.
I don’t expect congregations to gather and ponder what the Parable of Wyatt Way means. But every time I travel this island I wish some wiser hand were sowing our paths and walkways, so that the island’s natural beauty and our ability to traverse it could coexist in a unified fashion, unique and suitable to this grand place we call home.
–Eve Leonard is an island writer and real estate agent.