I planted beans. They’re already beans when you plant them and I think you could just cook them up, but instead we bury them and have them go through this whole thing so we have beans. They were bashful about germinating. Finally one brave scout poinked its little nose in the air and stood like a protestor defying a tank. Well, that kind of courage comes naturally to plants. They’re rooted. Anyway it must’ve called the all-clear because the rest of the row showed up later.
Hope, Gravity, And Beans
You can tell they’re beans because they’re all lined up where I planted them. Otherwise it can be hard to identify a plant at the poink stage. They come out with little blobby leaves that don’t look like the finished product. It’s a starter set, the cotyledons, and across the seed-plant kingdom they look kind of similar. You have to wait for the prima donna leaves to unfurl like ballerinas to tell the rest of the story.
The leaves in the starter set don’t count as real leaves though. Cotyledons are actually part of the embryo. (Yes, plants have embryos, a little something you should think about if you like to eat seeds, which you should totally leave alone until the plant bursts into the air, at which point they’re fair game and the Supreme Court doesn’t care what you do with them.) The purpose of these cotyledons is to raise a flag of hope to the anxious gardener, a little arrival announcement to the world–and prior to that their job was to glom onto the nutrients stored in the original seed. Once they’ve gotten the show on the road, as it were, they are sort of done. They figure if the “real” leaves want to spend the rest of their lives sucking up sun and working for the whole enterprise, they’re welcome to it. The cotyledons have done a heck of a job, getting the plant to kick its way out of that tough seed coat and head off in the right direction, and now they’re retired.
That “right direction” part is cool. Every kid learns that you can get a working plant out of a seed even if you plant it upside down, no matter how dark it is down there. They don’t just send out shoots willy-nilly and hope some of them hit the air. Plants react to gravity. They detect it because they have little starchy packages floating around the gooey bits of their embryos, and those sink to the bottom like a load in a diaper. “Ah, that way is down,” the plant intuits, and the part of the plant that aspires to being a root gets the drift and goes that way. And the other part, the shoot, goes the hell in the opposite direction out of sheer tribal hostility to the root, a little botanical friction that has worked out well, evolutionarily.
If anything more massive than the earth were nearby, the root would go that direction, but we’d have problems of our own and probably wouldn’t notice. That’s all gravity is, a mutual attraction between things with mass or energy, and the only reason the earth’s gravity is so much more impressive than ours is it’s bigger and more opinionated. But our planet is attracted to us, too, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Everything is attracted to everything else, even Republicans, and yet we still can’t get a decent bill past the Senate.
I’m certainly attracted to this bean plant. I check on it daily, and hope someday it will be full of beans, just like Mitch McConnell.