Way of the Tumbleweed

Way of the Tumbleweed

I’ve been clearing a patch of land where there’s a burly overgrowth of dried Tumbleweeds. My harvesting wardrobe includes thick leather gloves and toeless socks pulled over my arms to prevent painful encounters with the prickly thorns. I’ve been wondering about these still-rooted Tumbleweeds. Why haven’t they tumbled the way Tumbleweeds do?

What’s holding them in place when their natural inclination is to uproot and travel? Do they really like it here or have they just gotten stuck?

Clearing away the dried Tumbleweeds has revealed unexpected treasures. Hidden beneath the crunchy brown tangle is a lush world of green. A vibrant Yucca once buried beneath the overgrowth now stands visible and undisguised, reaching toward the sky. A tender vine has white blossoms who open wide to welcome the mornings and close up in the afternoon heat. The soil is sunning herself in renewal, readying for new growth.

From what I’ve seen, Tumbleweeds are ingenious. They begin growing low to the ground with tiny green leaves and dark purple stems spreading out weblike in all directions. Tumbleweeds’ roots dive into the earth with a strong central core surrounded by delicate tendrils running just below the surface of the soil. During their growing cycle, Tumbleweeds stay rooted in the earth. Their branches grow upward and outward in a spidery open-armed embrace. Their plant bodies become round and full, soaking in the nourishment of the sunlight, rain, and soil.

Carried somewhere inside Tumbleweed is an ancient instinctive knowledge about the hows, whens, and whys to transform. Even during the change-making, in the passages between what has been and where they’re heading, Tumbleweeds trust in their purpose and belonging. They stop soaking in nutrients. Their greenness fades away. Their plant bodies dry and harden into the essential roundness. Roots loosen and detach from the holding in the earth. In collaboration with the winds, Tumbleweeds roll and fly around the land. While tumbling about, they scatter thousands of seeds, sharing the blueprints for new life, planting the generations to come.

So here in the land just beyond my living room window, what’s up with the Tumbleweeds who’ve forgotten to tumble? It seems they’ve stayed long enough to tug at my curiosity and invite me to gather up the wisdom of their ways. Touching the world of the Tumbleweed has allowed me to feel what it’s like to naturally embody change. These wild nomads of the desert have shown me how to call in the winds to let old attachments go. 

I’ve come to see this aged gathering of Tumbleweeds as a council of elders. They know it’s never too late to remember what’s been forgotten. If we’ve come here to tumble, to love or learn or dream, to live and create according to our natural design, we can start any day, any time.

The prickly Tumbleweeds easily pull away from the sandy soil. With billowy armfuls of sundried plants held over my head, I walk toward the open mesas. I place the Tumbleweeds on the ground on the other side of the fence. They’re now on the wild lands, free to dance with the elements, join up with the winds, and continue on their way.

8 Responses to Way of the Tumbleweed

  1. Beautiful, as always. I feel like a tumbleweed. On the other side of the fence, free to dance, follow the winds, and embrace whatever is next! Thank you for your wonderful observations.

  2. Hi JoAnne, Your teaching is wonderful as always. I feel that the council of elders/tumbleweed stayed with you because they had a lesson to teach you and all of us. I have a small poster that my daughter made in high school it says “It’s never to late to become what you are meant to be”. I think about that often and why learning to accept and welcome change in our lives is so important.
    Love and blessings,

    • Hi Fred. Thank you for your sharing. Love the wisdom of your daughter. Welcoming change…yes, so vital for our lives.
      Heart to Heart,

  3. How wonderful to read in this moment, as I was looking at an alternative place to live, yet not feeling the desire to move truly ripe. I questioned myself: was this fear or wisdom. Maybe I still don’t know, but I’m willing to let my roots be at peace today where they are and listen.

    • How beautiful, Michou. Listening for the time for being rooted and the time for unrooting and shifting. This is dance with natural cycles the medicine of Tumbleweed helps us to see. Thank you for your sharing.
      Heart to Heart,

  4. Your writings, as always, are a soothing balm to my soul!!!
    Tumbleweeds seem to know how long to stay and when it’s time to leave?
    In our english language, the word, ‘weeds’ conjures up, something negative and useless. I wish the english language was more compassionate and loving to everything!
    Thank you, JoAnne for sharing such beauty!

    • Hi Rita. What a lovely idea to have a more respectful name for this plant. Our English language is filled with hierarchies and judgments about who is ‘worthy.’ I’m wondering what names from other cultures and languages have been given to this plant? Thank you for your inspirations to learn more.
      Heart to Heart,

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