By Laura Moore
The idea of removal seemed unappealing at first, but once I kneeled down and began to dig, I found the process strangely enjoyable. I looked forward to each new cluster of clover: the dainty ones, the hefty ones and everything in-between. Unable to suppress my childish urge to pause before I yanked, with each new patch, I allowed my eyes the guilty pleasure of scanning for a prized anomaly: the four leaf clover.
I continued plucking for an hour and a half, clearing the dirt of undesirable impostors, and as the crisp flowerbeds reemerged, I found myself thinking about weeds. Stuck on the moving boundaries of my definition, I decided to pause my effort, pull out my phone, and look up the word: "a herbaceous plant not valued for use or beauty, growing wild and rank, and regarded as cumbering the ground or hindering the growth of superior vegetation...an unprofitable, troublesome or noxious growth."
In other words, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a weed is a worthless, ugly, toxic, wild and/or rank entity that gets in the way of things that are far more valuable.
After I swindled a few moments pondering the idea of vegetative hierarchy, I returned back to the clovers, back to the life form that had aggressively overtaken my hostas. The weed definition certainly seemed to fit the description of most clovers, but I couldn't help but wonder why it didn't fit the four leaf clover, a plant that is admired, used for good fortune, and profitable when pressed and sold. I couldn't help but wonder why a society who despises a particular plant would enshrine a deviant variety of that same life form. If we are truly committed to the elimination of anything that might crowd our illustrious landscaping, why would we worship a mutation that takes up more space?
This seems particularly odd given the fact that mainstream society tends to gravitate toward what's expected. We love our norms. We are comforted by our norms. We spend our lives learning how to navigate our norms, how to declutter our lives in pursuit of them. When something doesn't follow a consistent, predictable pattern, we are often stymied. When someone or something looks different or acts differently, we grow uneasy, and in extreme situations, because the anomaly feels threatening, we are often compelled to reject it, remove it, weed it from our lives.
For some reason, this is not true when it comes to four leaf clovers. When we see a four leaf clover, we cast aside our concern for prized landscaping. We abandon our mission to protect superior plant borders. We drop our adherence to norms and treasure the symmetrical imperfection pinched between our fingers. We raise it on a pedestal and revere it. Unlike its clover peers, we gaze at it, cherish it and even preserve it. Crowds gather to admire the vegetative spectacle, and good luck is bestowed upon any individual fortunate enough to sift through a patch of homogeny and find the oddball.
This thought delighted me as I foraged through the clovers in my yard. If we can cast aside our concerns about infringing weeds, we can certainly do it with people. If we can find the time to comb a yard in search of something that occurs 1/10,000 times, then maybe we can find the time to look closer, gaze wider and learn more about the people around us. If we can drop our guard and reexamine our perspective on vegetative intruders, maybe we can do the same with our neighbors. Maybe we, as a mainstream society, can carve out time each day to appreciate the four leaf clovers in our lives: the beautiful, useful and uniquely crafted people who just might enhance, rather than hinder, our growth.