Nurturing a Problem

1. Introduction

As I continue to prepare for a forthcoming book, I’m going back through my archives and rewriting a number of my more popular pieces. Today’s story first appeared in a Seishindo newsletter more than six years ago.

If you’ve been with me long enough to be reading this story a second time, please write and let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

To all my readers, I hope you’re beginning to feel more alive and healthy, as spring once again leads to a resurgence of life.

In community,

2. Nurturing a “problem”

The street I live on in Tokyo is so narrow a car can barely make it past. Because of this everyone parks their bikes on one side of the street.

As instructed when moving in, my wife, my daughter, and myself, park our bikes across the narrow street in front of our neighbor’s house. Their house sits just 21 inches back from the curb. (I actually measured!) This means they can lean slightly forward from the edge of the street, and insert their key into the lock of the front door. Such is the scale of Japan!

A few years ago a hardy looking weed began growing next to where I park my bike. You might think such an event is barely worth mentioning, but let me explain, because initially I didn’t think it was a big deal either.

The weed started life in a humble manner, sprouting up in a crack between the street and the curb. Initially there didn’t seem to be a reason to pull it out, and indeed I marveled at its pioneering spirit.

It grew quite rapidly from day one, and after about six months it was beginning to look more like a tree than a weed.

Soon, birds were resting on its branches and depositing bird droppings on my bicycle seat. After wiping away the mess several times I took out my pruning shears and cut the weed tree down.

“Sorry little guy.” I said prior to lopping it off a few inches above ground level. “But you’re taking up way too much space on this narrow street.”

And that was the end of that!
Or so I thought….

My first mistake was ignoring the weed tree in the first place. My second mistake was not taking a more drastic approach to getting rid of it, because it grew back as if on steroids!

In no time it had more branches than before, and the base coming out of the crack was more formidable looking. Within four months from lopping it off, birds were once again leaving their calling cards on my bicycle seat!

This time around I had to borrow a special tool from a neighbor, and I cut the weed-tree down so that nothing at all was sticking up above the curb.

I must say I had a sense of “Good riddance!” when my work was done this time.

Well I think it was the very next morning, or two days at the most, when I noticed the hardy little son of a gun was once again sprouting new growth! I marveled at its will to live, and I began to concede a shift in the balance of power. Regardless of my tools, my supposed intelligence, and my dislike for the bird droppings, this little weed-tree was not to be deterred!

Kind of embarrassing actually, as I now realized there was only one viable course of action. Respect the plant and its life force, and stop thinking of it as a nuisance.

I made room for my courageous friend by moving my bike into my tiny yard. Next, I purchased some plant food and began feeding and watering the tree. I must say, the little beauty grew quite gloriously! Soon I began to lovingly trim it in “bonsai” fashion, and some years later it’s looking truly magnificent.

I find this little tree’s determination to live truly inspiring. The more it was harshly treated the more it flourished. The more it’s life hung in the balance, the greater its will to live. I can only hope the same is true for you and me.

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