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  • Helen Craven

Ragwort and Thistles

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

Ragwort has been attempting to colonise Kent. And anyone that keeps or cares for horses knows that Ragwort is poisonous and needs to be dug up and burned if found in the vicinity of their grazing. This year it seemed that Ragwort had declared war on us and I’ve never seen so much. As I did my regular rail journeys to London I saw it in swathes growing along the trackside and in some of the fields and it was the same along the motorways. There was so much it looked like it was being grown as a cash crop!

So we prepared for battle. We shall fight them in the ditches, we shall fight them in the pastures, we shall fight them on the verges etc. etc. I have spent many hours digging and bagging up ready for the bonfire and it has been very therapeutic (but not at first). It is a good feeling to be out in the open, doing something physical and useful and it has given me time to think and ponder.

It has triggered many emotions in turn; frustration, despair, anger, determination and satisfaction.

I started to see Ragwort everywhere - even when it wasn’t there! How many times did I stride over determinedly, with Ragworting fork akimbo - to find it was a thistle, or some other benign weed that actually the horses were quite partial to. So it made me think. We can focus on what we believe is negative and detrimental to us and sometimes see those negatives everywhere we look - even when they’re not there.

When we focus too hard and with too much anger, on things we think are bad or negative, then invariably that is all we see. When we are in a negative frame of mind, then the negatives seem to flourish. Now I’m not saying don’t clear the Ragwort, but I am saying, see what else is also there. I have the privilege of a wonderful view over the sea from the fields, I only have to look up and I see an ever-changing vista that never disappoints me. As the weather and light changes it brings new beauty to my eye. There are sometimes tiny, rare flowers that grow in the grass, which you often don’t notice unless you look carefully - and rabbits - how can you not enjoy fluffy rabbits bouncing around?

So Ragwort weeding makes me think of other areas of my life where I see negatives and feel frustrated or angry. Yes, I need to address things that are wrong, unfair to me or others I care about, but I also need to give my attention and focus to what is good, beneficial and to be appreciated.

I think Ragwort is a master of disguises. Sometimes it masquerades and pretends to look like a frizzy lettuce, or it hides among other plants or long grass, but I still enjoy eating frizzy lettuce and I have no desire to blame or destroy the plants that hide it - indeed I rather admire the cunning of the Ragwort. I’ve created this Ragwort persona because it make me giggle to myself and forget that my back is aching. I also know that what hides the Ragwort isn’t Ragwort and not my enemy.

Sometimes people show traits that I don’t like - no doubt I do the same for others - but it doesn’t make them bad people. We are all the result of what is planted within us by parents, peers, authority figures and the society that we live in. There is also something beneath all of that, that is the essence of us, our true selves, that is like the earth beneath the Ragwort, it nourishes it’s growth, but is inherently an innocent party that is capable of giving great sustenance to many different things - some that we might enjoy seeing, or eating, and some that we would rather didn’t exist. I’m giving a ‘thumbs up’ to the earth - even if it does let the Ragwort infiltrate our fields!! So, I will always try and see beneath the surface of other things that appear negative in my life and stand back to look at the bigger picture - there is always beauty there if we choose to see it.

Here’s to a wonderful winter, made better by the knowledge that Spring is on the way.

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