"Paradise is a patch of weeds.

"What loyal friends, these undesirables that infiltrate the lawn, insinuate between the cracks, and luxuriate in the deep shade of my neglect. Weeds are everywhere, showing up every day. I have quite a bit of help around here, but weeds are my most reliable underlings. Where would I be without them? I would run out of reasons to wake up every morning. I would lack motivation and direction. I might consider the job here done.

"The job here is just beginning.

"As if it isn't obvious enough, I must confess that in these sixteen years of gardening I have not yet learned how to garden. By this I mean that I do not know the chemistry of soils or the biology of compost. I have not learned the nomenclature; I do not know the right time or way to prune. My most useful tools are the ones farthest from my hands: sun and water. I have not planted a single thing still standing. In all this time in the yard I have cultivated no worthwhile skills, save one that is decidedly unskilled.

"I weed.

"I offer this up as a modest qualification because I have noticed how reluctantly most people bring themselves to the task. Weeding is not a popular pastime, even among gardeners. Weeds are the very emblem of aversion. Weeding doesn't produce a rewarding outcome. No grand finale, no big reveal. There's absolutely nothing to show for it. One spring I directed our revered Mr. Isobe to a troublesome spot in the backyard where tiny undesirables were spreading through the mondo grass. He squinted to see what I was pointing to. He did not share my distress but broke into laughter. 'You want me to weed?' Perhaps he couldn't believe that someone of his stature would be asked to stoop to the occasion. Or perhaps I was just imagining what he meant. In any event, I was offended, and I didn't ask him again. The weeds were all mine.

"While I was casting about for something to do for the rest of my life, as we like to characterize temporary forms of employment, I hit on a scheme. I'd seen how common it was for an otherwise respectable yard to be surrendered over to wilderness for the lack of a spade. And the worse it got, the worse it gets. I suggested to my husband that I start an enterprise — not for landscape design or decoration, for which I was unsuited — but just for weeding. I would call it 'Just Weeds.' I would go over to people's houses every week and just pull weeds — probably weeds they didn't even know they had! I thought it was inspired, but he thought it was lame. So instead I do it every day for no pay. This is how your life becomes rich with purpose. You take care of things that lie right under your feet, and no one even notices.

"The most common weeds in the yard are crabgrass, dandelion, and chickweed. The most common weeds in the world are greed, anger, and ignorance.

"This is the way to weed. Anchor yourself low to the ground so you can get a good look at what you're dealing with. Use a spade to loosen the hardpack and go deeper. The next part is tricky. Take hold of the stem and apply your attention, allowing the root to release. Haste and carelessness will only aggravate the situation. Sometimes you can get the root on the first tug. Other times you'll just tear off the top. Even if you don't get it all the first time, that's okay. It may take two or three, ten or twenty, one hundred thousand or a million times, to get the root completely. Just keep going along like that, encountering the next weed that appears in front of you for the rest of your life."