Friday, May 20, 2011
A seed in the ground, stimulated, bursts its hard skin from within. More comes out than was inside. The form is complicit in its own demise. The thing coming out is already more than the seed - growing up and growing down, rooting and ascending. Down goes an angelic white mist, a feathering of capillaries, greeting the earth below, spirit-like, deferentially parting particles. Contrarily the stem and leaves pushing up are brusque, determined, thrusting, solid, countering air with mass. The stem unbows, unfolds two catholic leaves, pressed together like hands. In a slow burst they spread into risk, uncertainty, the opportunity of aloneness. They get busy side by side, bordering, collected sunrays to feed the next, particular, "true" leaves.
Each leaf gives way to the next - unfurling, unwhorling - always more coming from the inside out. Each leaf does its time and then falls aside, peripheral. The length of each leaf's time varies - depending on circumstances to which it can only respond: temperature, light, wind, moisture, sun, rain, obstruction: falling trees, falling planes - predators: bird, insect, slug, grub. The overall constellation - the plant - polite networking below and formal shoving above - is many, many parts, and trading roles. Politics give way to brute manipulation and thrust ends delicately, ornately. It is many whole worlds.
It is many hole whorleds. Plants give a part of themselves to making something - or hundreds of a something - that rotates many parts in a circle as it wheels and explodes - a supernova, a flower, a rose. Out of this explosion comes beauty: a process developed over eons to attract birds and insects and mammals and bees. Out of the taking of beauty, a fruit comes, gravity-hung, pendulously done desire. Bearing, borne, heavy, hanging, nodding towards the ancestors below in a loop. In the center of the fruit the seed develops. It develops out of the experience of the bursting, the experience of the upward thrust toward light and the downward dig to root, the lifetime of roots making connections, transactions with dirt, mineral, rock, earthworm, grub, bacteria - where boundaries mean nothing, where mineral is rock is soil is root. The seed develops out of the experience of the opening of the leaves, the risk of the unfurling and multiplying of leaves, the dying, discarding of leaves. The formation of the bud and the explosion into beauty and the enjoying of that beauty and the taking and the resulting hang. The seed is the crystallization of all that experience, the memory of it, the instructions for the doing of it again, the brain of the plant.
The fruit swells and the seed develops in the heart of it, high above or rambling horizontally. The fruit must be heavy, powerful, heaving, packed with things to form the seed and be good to eat. The purpose of the fruit is to create, protect, continue, and hold the seed - to encase it, like a violin in velvet. An indestructible edible case, a hard candy King Tut in five layers of coffin, like our own brains, which end planted too.
The plant knows we will eat it when its interior seed casing is well formed, is ready, has all the protection, all the memory, all the information, when the fruit's work is done. That is ripenesss: exhuming vapors, sugars fermenting, decomposing. We love that moment in taste. We think rotting is delicious!
We eat the seed, it falls through us, gravity eats it. It bites the dust. It dies. It becomes cold. It waits. It waits through periods of time and cold. It is nothing. It doesn't think. Then it feels the moment: temperature, moisture, darkness or light, and explodes, begins its performance, its whirling dervish act, round and round, more and more. Is it heads up and bottoms down, or the reverse?
When I eat beans, peas, corn, grains, and nuts I am eating seeds, complete experience-holding things. A piece of meat, a leg of a calf, a wing of a chicken can't compare. Eat seeds mindfully. One walnut, as my friend Meredith Mandel sagely observed, may be enough for a whole day. I bet our hunting-gathering ancestors grasped the scope of it. Today I ate a bowl of granola finally appreciating that I was eating a spinning bowl of brains.