"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.