Wood is the element of spring in Chinese 5-Element Thinking and it represents qualities of growth, change, movement, and the irrepressible urge to push forward and up - even through cracks in the cement. People can feel like life starts to move really quickly in spring and the changing of the gears from winter's quiet to spring's action can be a little hurkey-jerkey at times. I sometimes feel that I have to hold on to my hat!
If lots of projects to begin and winter-things to put away begin to feel like too much and especially if that feeling of too much leads to self criticism (why can't I do it all?) it can be helpful to find some quiet moments to touch base with what still lingers of winter's water - deep, still, quiet, wise water - to help us remember what is most important to us and to feel a well-spring of satisfaction in what we do choose to do. Even asking questions like "What is important to me?" and "How can I feel that more?" can help ground us in times when things feel they are moving a little too fast.
Of course, there is also just enjoying the ride and going with all the great, outward moving, expressive, change-the-world-for-the-positive energy of spring and letting go of any encumbrances that prevent us from enjoying all the newness.
Today I joined a group of volunteers on a roadside planting project along Highway 20 between Winthrop and Twisp that my lovely friend Joyce keeps alive. In spring and fall, we weed invasive plants and plant native plants along this section of road. I have not been involved as long as many of the valiant "road warriors" as Joyce calls us, but I have been learning alot over the few seasons that I have participated. Because this spring has been warm and dry so far, an invasive, annual grass called Poa bulbosa was already starting to seed and the natives that have been planted were looking a bit parched.
Small projects like this fit into and are affected by a larger ecological landscape and it can feel discouraging to try to remove weeds that are actually better adapted to disturbed roadsides than are native plants. Invasive weeds are strongly "wood" - they can and do push up through concrete - better than some of the more delicate native plants. Their ability to invade and take over is actually part of the ecology of ecosystem recovery - rapidly colonizing and reproducing plants are designed to repair and cover the earth after disturbances. These days, we humans create many small and large disturbances of the earth as our populations grow and we extend the areas we affect by our residential, industrial, infrastructural development. I once read a beautiful poem about how weeds are the blanket that mother earth pulls up to cover herself after she has been raped (I am still trying to find that poem and will post it here when I do - it was in a catalog of Horizon Herbs). This poem changed my feeling of anger and frustration about the aggressive nature of weeds and the way they can overpower native plants to one of gratitude for their swiftness and put the responsibility for their take over of native plants back squarely where it belongs - in our hands.
In the same way that we can forget to priortize the protection of landscapes we love and that nurture us by our need to push ahead and develop, we can let our time be over run by weedy deeds - things we don't really need to do but that we just start doing, one after another, because...because....why was that again?..... What are all the ways we can balance the joy of newness and creation and pushing forward and doing with wisdom and reverence for what is valuable? This spring, I would like to live with this question for a spell.