Ode to the Tenacity of Plants

Plants embody tenacity to me. It is the bravest act of an organism to commit itself to a single location through its life with no recourse or chance to flee whatever the world might throw at it. Plants set their roots, sometimes deep, sometimes superficially, but they are then constrained to that spot. They have staked their irrevocable claim on that piece of land and from there move into the phases of life that any wild creature must go through. They must accept the whims of weather: the heat of the sun, the blessings of rain, the risks of flood, fire, predators or even a careless footfall. Yet, they endure and even flourish. I just saw a fern sticking out of a crack in the lava of Kilauea. It is the first brave colonist of what was shortly before magma in the inferno of the Earth’s core. It is exposed and may or may not receive the rain it needs, but it was there, a bright, happy green in the sea of petrified black waves. A silver lace vine I had planted started small. It struggled up the first two and a half feet of the arbor we had placed it next to. I was so proud of it as I watched it grow inch by inch. Then, a killer frost came in June. It died back to the root. I lost hope, and I thought it had died. Much to my surprise, it not only came back but leaped over six feet up the arbor. It had flourished despite the setback.

Plants grow in the blazing sun. They grow on ice and wind crusted slopes. They vibrate and cause snow to melt just that little bit faster so that they can put out their first blooms in a short spring. They sink roots over a thousand feet into the desert soil to find the water they need. They die back every year only to regrow and even exceed the last year. They weather the seasons with photosynthetic bark or tiny needles that let them eek any amount of energy out of the meager sunshine of winter. They patiently squat under other plants until the chance that a pocket of light should be opened up at which point they leap upward to fill their long awaited space. They fight chemical warfare against myriad competitors and predators. They cast their pollen and seeds to the winds, the birds, and the bees in the hope that just a grain, a fate of chance will give new life. They transform their very natures to be able to grow up trees and then become a bush in their own light. They grow in soil, on rocks, in other plants, on the open water, even in hydroponic greenhouses in which there is no soil at all. They will split a boulder in half and cling to it for thousands of years. They can sprout from the smallest imperfection in a cliff. They can create their own soil and habitats. They fall over and sprout sideways, they are torn up and burnt down, and yet they are the source of the phrase life springs eternal. Oh, that we could be as steadfast, patient, faithful, and hopeful as a plant. They embody so many of the principal graces.