Chapter 15

The Wonder of Weeds

Written at our home in Ontario, California, December, 1937

WE SHALL never lack for animation in life so long as there are weeds. Because of weeds, in the past month we have met a dozen new friends, adventured in strange places of mountains and deserts, and added several chapters to the joy of living. Weeds have been the most glamorous single item in our yearly routine.


It all began last summer when Helen undertook a course of study in arrangement and design. "Flower Arrangement" the course was called, but it soon became apparent that weeds are perhaps the medium best adapted to original expression in line and form.


Just weeds of any kind—wild buckwheat, dock, ragweed, sage. Or forest growth—evergreen boughs, pine cones, ferns. Or field grasses—wheat, barley, timothy hay.


On a Sunday in October we attended the annual Weed Show in Pasadena. That convinced us. Displays to mock a florist's finery had been created from lowly tumbleweeds, cattails, devil's grass. A bit of sand and some twigs and grasses, deftly dealt with, won first place in the show. A thousand persons learned that, in weeds, art has a new medium of expression.


So began our treks to California's wild places. Helen had to decorate the Woman's Club, a number of her friends asked for weed arrangements, we wanted lots of fall color in our own home. We found the "makings" out in strange hidden valleys on the Mojave Desert or along seldom-used bypaths in the mountains near the headwaters of the Santa Ana and San Jacinto Rivers. We found them along rural roadsides. And even in our own backyard. This fall we have been a thousand miles and back, lured by a quest for new and different weeds; in our travels we have discovered a California that has made us dizzy with its beauty.


Weeds have made living delightful this autumn.


P.S. Autumn, 1990. I have just looked up the definition of weed in our new Random House dictionary: "Weed, a valueless plant growing wild." Even dictionaries can sometimes be wrong. The compiler of that definition obviously had not adventured into the places we had explored. He had not attended that Pasadena Weed Show. He had not experienced the weed creations with which Helen had enlivened our lives.