Naronim on kropeveh vaksen on regen.
As mentioned in another blog article, the Yiddish language recognizes the subtle differences between the many kinds of fools that manifest themselves in human form with a comprehensive list of diagnostic categories. These labels are peppered throughout our arsenal of Yiddish proverbs, expressions, and insults. But sometimes, as with this particular proverb, we’ve needed to make a broader, more inclusive statement about all fools, no matter their idiosyncrasies. In such a case, we employ the term “Nar”, or its plural, “Naronim.”
The sweeping generalization made in this proverb acts as half warning, half resigned-statement. Weeds and fools are both unrelentingly, eerily resilient species that, yard after yard, generation after generation, respectively, remain a fact of life with which we must deal.
This expression always reminds me of my mother. (Why, then, did I not choose to immortalize her in this card’s illustration? Well, because to accurately capture my mother, the caricature would need to embody “freakishly-youthful beauty”—a quality that does not make for good visual comedy.) My mum, also an artist (although a far more mature one than yours truly), effortlessly weaves her creativity into everything she does; and gardening is no exception. Beyond artistic passions, Mum’s gift for gardening is also born of her innate maternal, nurturing quality. I think the latter connection exists for a lot of women—and some men.
Although my mother has always gardened on some scale, I have noticed a possible correlation between the age at which one’s children leave home, and a quickly-developing, sometimes-obsessive gardening habit. (That or a horse habit.) This Croc-wearing, trowel-toting, “I’d Rather Be Gardening”-bumper-sticker-boasting, premenopausal movement is especially present here in Vermont.
With all this said, given my artistic background, my geographic location, my loyalty to Subaru, and the fact that my interests have always, despite my age, aligned me most closely with the average quinquagenarian, one would think I’d be a card-carrying member of the Great Gardening Guild. (I’m even, unlike my husband, delightfully undaunted by dirt!)
Well, no such luck.
My thumb, as it turns out, is as black as the very soil I’ve failed to tame. Maybe it has to do with my sometimes-manic impatience or my lack of inherent maternal instinct (the idea of having children still makes my throat start to close). Whatever it is, it is. I was greatly disappointed to discover that I didn’t take to gardening the way others swore I would. (Similar to the condescending assurance parents give us progeny-free adults: You’ll see! Once you have kids an inherent drive takes over, and you won’t be able to imagine ever having been weary of this facet of life! I’ve always been appalled by this, what I perceive to be the ultimate gamble. After all, stunted tiger lilies and dust-collecting gardening paraphernalia are one thing, but bailing on parenting postpartum seems a little much. Even to me.)
I read an article once that shed great light on the gardening phenomenon that, as a neurotic Jew, got me very intrigued. To me, it explains the frenzied and seemingly intoxicating collective-awakening that befalls gardeners every spring. (I recommend that you stay the hell out of their way and don’t expect a lot of eye contact until at least mid-June.) Apparently, scientists have discovered a kind of bacteria that exists in soil that “may affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants.” While fascinating—and a lovely thought, really—I’d be curious to know how many Jews were included in this study. All I know is that this Ashkenazi’s issues are a little more advanced than even the most medicinal-manure can mitigate. Alas, after all the natural approaches I have tried (I’m always a fan of nature before pharma), I am resigned to the fact that my ongoing quest for balance rests on mainlining SSRIs and getting my tuchus to the shrink on a weekly basis. And so it goes. ...
Now where was I?! Ah, yes! Fools, weeds, and Mum’s green thumb! The genius of this adage is that its metaphor can be interpreted in more than one way: Not only does it call out a kinship between fools and weeds, but this proverb’s paralleling prompts us to ponder if perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned here about how we should approach the weeds and fools of life. Hear me out! As any avid gardener will tell you, beyond backaches, bug bites, and the blinding burn of sweat-streaked sunscreen in their eyes, the ongoing war they wage against weeds is by far the most frustrating facet of gardening. At this point, I must once again invoke my mother here because the extreme nature of her heady hatred toward her nemesis, the weed, serves as the ultimate case study. ...
Without fail, every time my Mum pulls into our driveway there is a longer-than-expected lapse of time between the sound of her car door shutting and our doorbell ringing. The woman cannot walk by a weed without angrily prying it from its self-appointed post. Each time, newly-appalled by their audacity at implanting themselves where they clearly did not belong, she chastises the renegade roots at full volume. (Given what I’ve told you about my proclivity for horticulture, or lack thereof, you can imagine this takes quite a while.)
My mother’s ongoing battle with the brazen bottom-feeders of botany illustrates the aforementioned second-half of this proverb’s potential: there’s a lesson to be learned from Mum’s fervent but infuriatingly futile efforts; a lesson in how to manage the less-than-desirable-yet-inescapable facts of life, be them weeds, fools, or the countless other ageless annoyances.
As I see it, we’ve got three options:
- Ignore the weeds. Let them choke out our horticultural efforts and overtake our plots.
- Mount our trusty steeds (or in this case our Craftsman mowers) and wage war. Spend big bucks on every Weed-No-More and Death-to-Dandelions product out there. Waste late nights trolling Internet forums for insider tips: Lay shower curtains and carpet scraps. Douse our lawns in bleach, and soak our yards with WD-40 (all real search results, I swear) until our grounds become patchy wastelands; the only result being that the weeds are treated to a little more legroom, and we start receiving threatening letters from the Condo Board. Neither seems all that appealing now does it? Well, luckily, there’s a third option. ...
- Buddhists and avid watchers of the OWN Network alike promote the concept of “acceptance,” the idea of non-striving, non-judgmental awareness.
So what in G-d’s name does this have to do with weeds or fools, you ask? Well, I propose that this proverb (yes, remember the proverb?), though silly on the surface, is actually hinting at something quite profound: we need to know that weeds and fools exist, and will always exist. We shouldn’t ignore them, but we shouldn’t rage against them either. Instead, it’s best to remain aware of them and act accordingly:
- We can accept their presence, surrender the desire to rid ourselves of these nuisances at all costs, and live life in spite of them.
- We can work around ‘em.
- And maybe, just maybe, we can work with them and learn to appreciate them as a part of life.
Not buying it? Well, ask your kids (or, if you’re like me, your inner child) if you don’t believe me. To a five-year-old, fools are tops! Life would be so boring without them. I know I certainly couldn’t imagine childhood without the foolish antics of Wile E. Coyote, the cats Sylvester and Tom, or the ultimate animated fool, Mr. Homer Simpson (not only a fool, but a kal ve-khoymer as well!).
And what about the fools’ botanical brethren? Surely even an innocent child would be hard-pressed to find any value in the wretched weed. Right? Not so fast! Despite my anxious aversion to all things great and small, even I couldn’t make sense of my mother’s deep-seated (or -seeded?) disdain for weeds. Many a childhood summer, while my goyish peers displayed stunning feats of hand-eye coordination, I would sit for hours, my chubby legs crossed, my eyes squinting into the summer sun, making crowns and necklaces out of those magical, ever-present, downright-dandy yellow “flowers.”
What can I say? Even weeds have their place. Look to the children, people. …
Just keep them the hell away from me.
While strolling side-by-side on a pair of treadmills, Gloria is venting to her best friend Joy about her good-for-nothing-headache-of-a-son Aaron; a practice that seems as old as their almost-40-year friendship…
Gloria: “I tell you, Joy, it’s the same story with that kid! He’s 52-years-old and we’re still waiting for him to grow up! No wonder Danny’s finished with him—he thinks I’m crazy to keep taking Aaron’s calls, but, Joy, you know this, as a mother, I just can’t—Oy, I suffer for that one! Really I do!”
Joy: “You don’t have to tell me, Glo, I’ve watched you and suffered along with you! Your Danny doesn’t want to hear about his Luftmensch of a son, so guess who has to! It’s not another one of those pyramid schemes is it? I love you, Glo, but I’m running out of closet space and my grandkids are getting wise to my regifting efforts at Chanukah ... really, there are only so many craft projects a seven-year-old can do with aluminum foil and back issues of Motocross Monthly!”
Gloria: “Tell me about it! Danny and I are still eating through the aftermath of Aaron’s foray into VegeVital! Oh, Joy … where did I go wrong?”
Joy: “Glo, don’t you dare! Look at Alan! You raised him under the same roof and he’s a true mensch … and a podiatrist yet! Aaron is not your fault. How many times do I have to tell you? Fools and weeds grow without rain.”
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