Philosophers ponder questions like: What is truth? and How do I know I’m awake and not dreaming? But where are these philosophers for the Big Questions, questions like: How do I fit this enormous tent back into its tiny stuff sack? or Where did I put my sunglasses? What do you mean I’m wearing them? …oh, right.
Recently, while I pulled weeds from around the young chard plants in my garden, another Big Question popped into my mind. Here’s the thought process that led to this question. I start the garden by removing any weeds, then turning the soil so it’s fresh and bare. Meanwhile, in the house, on a sunny windowsill, I have sprouted and grown chard seedlings. I plant the chard seedlings in the fresh, unsullied ground, giving them a head start on the season.
Let’s be clear. The chard had pre-grown a network of roots and at least two embryonic leaves, some of them had added one or two true leaves, as well. Any weed hoping to colonize the same area of ground must start from seed, sprout, put down roots, and push up a stem with its own first leaves even as the chard is, or should be, adding more and bigger leaves and growing toward the sky. You may already have noticed my use of the word – should. In other words, the chard, given its head start, should tower over any weeds.
But no. It seems that chard is a contemplative plant in the spring. It meditates on the soil composition, it muses about the weather, and it ponders its plans for the year ahead. Then it carefully unfolds one tiny new leaf. By the time this new chard leaf catches its first rays of sunlight, a dozen nearby weed seeds have flung out a handful of roots and rocketed up into the air to form a canopy of hastily constructed leaves, all poised to crowd out, shade out, and smother the chard. So, I must intervene and remove the weeds.
Which brings me to my Big Question – why can’t chard grow with the enthusiasm of a weed?
Of course, I know this is a rhetorical question, not a Big Question, but I do wish that a philosopher or an agriculturalist would come through with a practical answer, a solution that would have chard make the top ten of fastest growing plants. If those experts fail, perhaps science can find a way to make my tongue thrill to the taste and texture of weeds.
Brainflash! Suddenly, I realize I have at my fingertips the answer to one of the philosophers’ questions, namely, How do I know I’m awake and not dreaming? I simply walk into an untended chard patch, take a leaf from the tallest plant, pop it into my mouth, and chew. If I gag and spit it out, I know I just tried to eat a weed. Therefore, I will know I’m awake and not dreaming because the chard would outgrow the weeds only in my dreams.