Hungering For Light

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Mother Nature’s children can’t be fooled. Even though I placed the soil flats I’d seeded with Silverado chard on my sunniest, most south-facing window ledge, after the seedlings emerged, they wanted out. When I saw their hunger for the world outside that pane of glass, I thought of classrooms of children turning their faces to the gentle spring day beyond the schoolroom. Not me, never. Back in the day, I was eyes front, back straight, hands folded on the desk, and mind on the lesson. Word! And if any of my former teachers say otherwise, their advancing years must be clouding their memories.

My memory is crystal clear, of course. Now what was I talking about…?

Oh right, chard. Apart from a drop of water, a puff of air, and a few soil minerals, what chard craves most is sunlight, its most vital fuel. Each chard plant needs to pack on tissue, create more leaves, create bigger leaves, and get taller, wider, and more vigorous than all the plants nearby.

Mother Nature isn’t about fairness and a level playing field. Mother Nature asks, how badly do you want it? How far are you willing to stretch? Will you bend over backwards if that’s what it takes?

Clearly, the chard in that flat are willing to bend, stretch, and strive. Their youthful eagerness makes me wish the best for each of them when the time comes to plant them in the real world of the garden. Out there, they must brave soul-sucking slugs determined to chew them down to ground level while they are still tiny, before they manage to create their first true leaves. They must survive torrential downpours of rain that try, with repeated blows, to sledge-hammer down the tender seedlings until they no longer have the strength to spring back up. If they are planted in the kitchen plot of a lazy gardener, the sort of gardener I used to be but no longer am, I hasten to add, then they must vie with competing weeds for water, nutrients, and light.

When I look at those leaning chard seedlings, I understand that hunger. We humans hunger for so many things: enlightenment, motivation, reward, love, recognition, joy, adventure, and, sometimes, just everything.

In the end, though, when the chard has grown to a suitable size, I will have only one hunger. I will hunger for a freshly-picked, delicately-steamed, lightly-buttered-and-salted, generous heap of chard on my plate.

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