Did you know tomato plants grow better in the wind? Me neither, but my son’s high school science project gave undeniable proof. Then I got to thinking: is the same true for authors?
First, the tomatoes. Phase one of his experiment proved that tomato seeds germinated faster when fed green tea rather than just water, which was the first clue that maybe these fruits with the veggie reputation are pretty smart. Then today, after three months of careful lab work, my young scientist presented me with two clear cups, the kind that in the goold ole days would have been filled with beer at a Rawlins Cross concert … but I digress. In one cup were two scraggly little sprouts, the sort of thing I’m famous for nurturing straight to the compost. In the other, though, were a half dozen sturdy green seedlings staking their claims and reaching for the sun. The difference? The sturdy guys were given an hour a day in front of a low-speed fan. It seems the breeze encourages the stalks to grow stronger, which leads to healthier, faster-growing plants.
Huh. Who knew.
“Well, you might have, if any of your plants ever lived long enough,” my darling boy suggested as he kissed his plants goodbye and donated them to my kitchen garden … or what I hope will be a kitchen garden, if not everything decomposes by July. Sweet child. Long on honesty, short on tact and the awareness that one should never disrespect the hand that does their laundry. I could have pointed out that he is growing just fine, thank you very much, and might grow better if he did his own laundry but again, I digress.
Now, for these tomato plants to stay healthy, the breeze needs to be moderate to light, not steady or hurricane-force. There also needs to be stability in other conditions – water but not too much, sunlight but not too warm, all the usual things. But to see the two cups side by side is fascinating; a force no one could see and can only partially control rendered one group weak and caused the other to thrive. Could we, by any chance, be like tomato plants? We instinctively seek shelter for ourselves and those we love, discourage entry into the hint of a storm, but does that keep us safe or weaken our spirit? When we survive a challenge, meet a goal, win a competition, or navigate an obstacle, we feel a sense of accomplishment, pride, energy. Placed in a stiff breeze on a regular basis would we not grow stronger as well? Resistance in the gym builds muscle; resistance in life ‘builds character’, our grandfathers would grumble. Perhaps they were on to something, and not just trying to get their kids doing the grownup work for them.
When I began this exploration 17 days ago, I felt like I was in the throes of a hurricane. Set something down, it goes spinning out of reach. Try to focus on one thing, six others become lost. The despair, the sensation of being pushed off course, the air being sucked from my lungs, even the roaring in my ears all mirrored the feeling of being caught in a windstorm. That strength of breeze doesn’t grow things, it destroys them. My decision to let go of my book for now, turn attention inward, and take baby steps back toward my path gave shelter from the storm. With every choice I make and every promise I keep to myself, the window is widened and the breeze grows stronger. Will I grow stronger, too? We’ll see. In the meantime, I may have the best kitchen garden ever, with tomatoes that actually live to bear fruit.
Thanks for listening! See you tomorrow.