Thursday, August 11, 2011


or Tenacity

"Tendril" is such a lovely word, with all the swirling delicacy of a sumptuous Art Nouveau design.  Depending on which dictionary you check, its source might be the Latin word tener, meaning soft, tender, and yielding.  Or it might come from tendere, to stretch or extend, or maybe from tenēre, to hold.

Quite possibly in a stranglehold.

I goofed up this year.  When it came time to plant summer squash and cucumbers in the microgarden—the 2' x 4' raised bed where I grow vegetables—I reversed their planting positions.  I should have sown the squash in the roomy center divider where it could bush out, and the cukes next to the trellis where they could climb.  Instead the squash are now glowing with health in front of a trellis they have no interest in, and the cukes, eager to cling to a trellis, are having to make do with whatever they can find—a marigold leaflet, a scallion.  Fortunately the amaranth has come to the rescue yet again, sturdy enough to sustain another species without losing vigor itself.

The greatest challenge facing the cukes where they are—the biggest reason they have to climb—is to reach sunlight.  I usually wait to plant curcubits until after the 4th of July to starve out the squash bugs, so when the cukes were still seedlings, the other, older plants in the microgarden were already fully grown and casting shade.  Tendril by tendril, inch by inch, the cucumbers have been struggling to make their way through the established plants and into the sunshine. 

Their progress has been impressive:  steady, relentless.  Spindly, leggy growth is not in these cucumbers' destiny; they will not settle for anemic pallor.  "Sunshine or bust" is their motto.

Knowing the strides they've made, I look at their tendrils now, and I don't see delicate curls.  I see the botanical equivalent of pitons, driven into rock, anchoring mountain climbers who move one foothold, one handhold at a time in their dangerous contest with gravity.  I can understand why clinging has such a bad name—just ask the scallion, squeezed in two, how it feels about those tendrils.  But the flip side of clinginess is tenacity, the ability to hold tight and not give up.

To keep pulling yourself toward life, one stubborn inch at a time.


  1. Tendrils have always amazed me. Such an interesting characteristic of a plant. Reaching out, like hands. A true will to succeed.

  2. Stacy - It amazes me how you manage to write at least two thoughtful posts a week.

  3. I wonder, it's green, it's growing - might it not feel like an affectionate hug.

  4. Stacy, I love the turn in this post when you shift the angle of vision and turn fragile, dependent clinginess into strong, determined tenacity. Great writing, as always! -Jean

  5. Holley, aren't they interesting? I wish I knew more about the physiology of it--how they extend and curl, and how they "know" when they've reached something to twine around.

    b-a-g, wow, thanks. It "helps" that I don't get out much...

    Diana, I could see it feeling pleasant, but only if you're sturdy enough to take a little strength, like the amaranth. The poor marigold leaves and other smaller things that were in the way didn't survive the hug.

    Jean, thank you! I was enjoying thinking about words that essentially mean the same thing but radiate different nuances. If I were writing a term paper, I'd love to trace the baggage those two words carry around.

  6. I have sometimes wrapped those tendrils around my finger. They are so soft and pliable it is amazing how strong they really are.

  7. Stacy, Your writing always inspires. Here you write so beautifully about one of my favorite subjects. The tender tendril to the life holding fastener. Anyway we look at it . . . pretty amazing consciousness. Lovely photos too!