The Trouble with Grass Weeds
translated by Aung Aung Taik
I had been gazing at my new American backyard, longing to be able to garden as I used to in Burma. My neighbor, Henry, brought me a rose bush that another neighbor gave me because he heard I was interested in gardening. Henry runs City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, the organization where I am now the writer-in-residence with Sampsonia Way Magazine.
About three or four days later, Henry appeared bringing two people and some equipment. “I brought these two gentlemen to clean up the backyard so that you can start a garden,” Henry explained.
The two removed the bushes and shrubs and repaired the fence bordering the property. When this was done, they tilled the ground to ready it for planting.
In the first week of April 2009, Henry sent me an e-mail saying that Jana, one of my neighbors across the street, wanted to visit me to discuss gardening. On April 16, Jana arrived with her gardening tools.
There were still some bushes left in the backyard and weeds had already started to grow in the tilled areas. Jana said, “The first thing we need to do before planting is to remove the weeds.” As she was talking, she began to pull some plants out, explaining that some of the bushes are wild flowers and some are just pure nuisance.
“This is the worst one,” she said, pointing to a creeper. “Its roots are white and long. The roots move into other plants’ roots and destroy them. They consume the nutrients of the soil. We need to basically get rid of them.”
The weeds she was pointing to looked like our Kazunywet, a hollow-stemmed water spinach that grows wild anywhere there is water. It is a good vegetable for the poor to live on.
But this weed’s stems were not hollow. Jana poked the trowel deep into the ground and pulled out its lengthy white root. “If some parts of the roots are left, it will quickly grow back,” she said.
Pointing to some other plants, she said, “I am not going to pull those. They are wild flowers and soon they are going to blossom.”
On that day, we planted seeds to grow lettuce, turnips and green peas. Jana then said that in ten days or so, they would start to sprout.
I watered the area where the seeds were on rainless days. I put stones and sticks around for markings to make sure my two sons would not accidently step on them. Then, I had to go to New York for a week. I called my sons every day to make sure they watered the garden.
Upon my arrival back home in Pittsburgh, I put away my luggage, ate, and then rushed to the backyard to see my little plants. I was so thrilled to see these little green things in the ground.
To my shock, the little green things were those terrible creeping weeds! I had thoroughly cleared those weeds before I went to New York. Without resting from my trip I picked up the three-pronged garden fork and began to dig hard to get rid of the white roots.
It had only taken a week, I thought, for the second generation of weeds to surface.