Remember that bit of dialogue in 'Top Gun' when Tom Cruise' partner at flight school talks about his need for speed? Well in my Dad's case, it's all about the weeds.
After the lengthy rains and super hot weather, this year's weeds define a crop bonanza. Had he planned for it, my Dad could have made a killing at the Farmer's Market with his purslane. Instead, he's always just considered it one of the many weeds that threaten his neat rows of vegetables and thus, he has the need to weed.
Beyond their overwhelming presence this year, the weeds and the physical chore of weeding, answer another need for my Dad. Much as he loves sitting in a rocker on the porch and looking out over the town to the hills beyond, he loves being out in the garden even more. And at this time in the season, that pretty much means weeding, since my Mom is the one who usually picks the vegetables. Outside, kneeling for hours straight, he's quiet and absorbed in the task. Two rows over, I'm kneeling and weeding too.
At first my weeding goes quickly, and I'm thinking this isn't so bad. Then I reach the crab grass, where every single root puts up a fight. Progress is slow and the rows to be weeded just stretch on and on. I'm sweating so much it's just dripping off my nose and chin, and the bugs are starting to circle though I know enough now to spray repellent before I set out for the garden. I'm thinking weeding is a pretty crappy job, but then I look over at my Dad again. He's just moving steadily along, leaving a perfectly cleared path behind him. The dirt is neatly mounded up towards the vegetables and not a weed is left. It's easy to see he's perfectly content.
I turn back to weeding my row and begin imagining what's going through his mind. I blank out the circling bugs and sweaty drips to accept the challenge of reining in the weeds as he is doing. I become oblivious to anything but the physical exertion and the resulting satisfaction each time I toss another fistful of roots into the bucket. Putting the discomfort aside, I think about the continuity of this garden, from past generations to now. It's a garden you can put all your hope into in Spring and then dedicate your season's work to it, regardless of what bounty results. Each year it confirms again that hard work results in great satisfaction. And I think that's why he's perfectly content.