On Saturday, I was honored to speak at a young author’s conference in southern Washington, and was it ever special. These days, it takes almost heroic effort to pull off such things–teachers, parents, kids all choosing to be part of a reading and writing event instead of all the other things tugging at them. On the way home, my sister Cathy and I stopped at Hortlandia. I wanted to look for native Oregon plants. Writing the Lanie books woke me up to what a difference we can make with native plants that support native insects eaten by native birds–and now I have a garden to play with.
Alas and alack, one of the plants I bought shows up on some lists of noxious and maybe even invasive plants, which sent me back to trying to learn more about the weeds in my back yard–like this one. More and more I realize that the things in my back yard are unwanted. I’m learning all kinds of new vocabulary from “vigorous” to “pushy” to “thug.” My weekend reading made me see in a new way that invasive plants are crowding out Oregon native wildflowers and ground cover because they are just so bold and strong and overpowering, and I should be doing my bit to not add to the problem.
I like moss. I’m happy to live with a lot of things other people call weeds. I’m having fun playing with the stones I dig out of my dirt. But a lot of the weeds hanging around my back yard are the really bad ones that will bully other plants around–and now I know I need to learn more about weed identification and weed pulling.
Come on! Why can’t at least some of the weeds that have invited themselves in be nice native plants that will behave themselves? Why are ALL of them the bullies?
The only hopeful thought of the day is a metaphorical one. My friend Ann Porter in ND introduced me to Betty who grew up in Ethiopia without all the coaxing and tending of reading habits that goes on in the United States. No reading teacher. No library. No tutor. No ELL teacher. No special stories crafted just for her interests…and yet that seed of reading fell, anyway, and she ended up loving to read…and her reading opened doors for her to eventually get an advanced degree…and now she’s running a marathon so that kids in Ethiopia can have more. books.
This teacher of a new Ethiopia Reads school explained to an interviewer that she has made it a mission to protect young girls from the practice of forced marriage. “Being a woman in this society, you aren’t supposed to speak. Being a teacher, I now have a voice” Girls who are not in school are frequently forced to marry as young as 12 years old. Kololo opened this school year with children as old as 12 years old starting in kindergarten and first grade. “I’m helping the girls by empowering them. If they are educated, they can be heard.”
This week, I’ll fly out to Denver…and from there to Kansas and NYC where Ethiopia Reads volunteers have organized events to help us keep going on our efforts. I’ll leave the garden and yard weeds behind for a while and think about reading seeds that, thankfully, grow in the strangest places.