28 July 2005

20. Plants

Dear plants,

You're really weird. I mean that in a good way, though, and on all kinds of levels. For one thing, many of you are delicious — or maybe I'm overestimating and it's just some of you; I'm not sure. I should probably find out what percentage of you are edible in some way, just to satisfy my geekish curiosity, but I digress. Many of you are also quite beautiful, and as I learn more about you I'm developing a greater appreciation for your different kinds of beauty, which in turn makes the world a cooler place to be just because I can look at you and smile just about everywhere I go. You're weird in big and loud as well as small and quiet ways, all of which add up to something strange and wonderful. Plants, you reaffirm my belief that if there's any life in the universe beyond the planet Earth, it's quite possible we silly human animals won't be able to recognize it even if we found it. I mean, you're so different from life as I understand it in my silly human animal ways. It boggles my mind how I can cut big pieces off you to eat, or just because they're in my way, and you still live! Sometimes you even grow back stronger and healthier than before! Wow!

True, I wasn't always this enthusiastic about you. I'm still not much into biology on a microscopic anatomical level, what with all the chemistry that goes on there — yuck. But since buying a house and trying to tend all the plants on the property and starting a garden in which to grow vegetables to eat, I'm starting to think that maybe botanists aren't all that on crack, after all. Now granted, I'm deeply fascinated by my bean and tomato and spaghetti squash plants and so on because if all goes well they give me food (or they already have, hurray!) but I can see how even non-food plants might hold similar fascinations, for sentimental or aesthetic reasons perhaps, or just geekery. Roses are pretty intriguing, I gotta say — most of the bewilderment I expressed earlier at plants that respond well to even my ruthless and possibly incompetent pruning is based on my experiences with the rose bushes in my front yard. Their rhododendron colleagues are even more of a mystery to me, but I don't have as much of a use for them, though that might just be because they confuse and bewilder me, I'm honestly not sure.

Plants! You are so amazing! Before I forget, I should express my gratitude to you for producing the oxygen I breathe as a byproduct of photosynthesis, which is about as miraculous as anything else I can think of, and about as full of scary chemistry too, all at once. I had to study that mysterious process and the one we both share, respiration, in high school, but fortunately I've forgotten most of it since then so it's okay except how maybe it stopped me from learning more about you for a while, during which time I missed out on so much joy and wonder.

The good news of course is that I'm back to the joy and wonder of learning (albeit in a more first-hand and less textbook manner) and planting, and watching in awe as you grow, plants. Symbiosis rocks, even if I'm really misusing that term and trying to stretch it into a metaphor for talking about how all life is interconnected, even life that's completely foreign to my understanding of how anything works. You rock, too, plants, and I'm not just saying that because I eat so very many of you. Um, I hope you're okay with that last, although since I'm pretty sure you can't see this, let alone read it, I'm not sure how I could ever hear back from you either way. Sorry about that. And finally, while you sometimes seem alien enough to have come from other planets, and I think it would be pretty cool if you had, I'm mostly just happy knowing that the Earth is full of things that are just as freaky as I am, no matter where any of us came from.


Started in the early AM hours of 27 July 2005, published 28 July 2005, updated 4 February 2006 with a link to this Dinosaur Comic, because I could not resist. Title abridged 1 December 2011, last updated 6 June 2014.