Sprout Massacre

sprout massacre 300x225 Sprout Massacre
Massacre? Or Manifest Destiny?

Do you have these odd little internal habits that seem perfectly normal to you until one day it crosses your mind that maybe it’s not normal at all but quite possibly downright weird? Maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it because you’ve done it all your life and so it’s not even something you think about.

For instance, maybe you tell yourself stories about inanimate–or nearly inanimate–objects, in order to explain their (ahem) “behavior.” You’ve done this all your life, almost unceasingly, running this internal storytelling monologue with yourself, until one day you’re standing in the kitchen and it hits you that maybe you’re just wee, teeny bit, tiny bit, a little insane.

So this morning I was harvesting sprouts. We grow them in these little trays, where they start as seeds and get watered twice a day. We watch tenderly as they spring to life, the miracle of a tiny seed suddenly sprouting roots and leaves and growing into a cute baby plant. For about five days, we nurture their growth, marveling over the miracle of life, and then we yank them up by the roots and eat them.

But first we yank them up by the roots and stick them in a container in the fridge to chill for a while. You harvest them by fistfuls, and there are always some stragglers left in the bottom of the tray and you have to decide whether it’s worth the trouble to go back and harvest those few one at a time, and usually it’s not, so you just wash them down the drain with a scrub brush.

So I was standing there yanking them up by the roots and wondering how they felt about it. For instance, were the ones that were harvested really sad, or were they kinda oblivious and thinking it was some sort of fun adventure. If they knew they were going to be eaten, I figured they were probably pretty scared about that. Poor little yummy little things.

Then I thought about the stragglers. Were they relieved when they realized they’d been spared? I imagined them throwing some sort of quiet but jubilant party: “YES! We made it! Now we have all this room to grow… spread those roots out, search for the nutrient-rich earth that is surely mere millimeters away. We are gonna MAKE it!”

But their party is about to be interrupted with a rude awakening. Suddenly they’ll find themselves violently crushed and torn, washed away in a devastating torrent, to a terrible underground death… or maybe (wait, some of them might find some place with nutrients and sunlight and eventually grow into something but… no. They’re on their way to a water treatment facility, and death by chemicals. Except the ones that end up in the trash. THEY might become something in a landfill… but more likely they’ll suffocate in the plastic bag).

Back to the tray. So then I got to wondering. What if one of the sprouts, prior to his tragic end, got to wondering (with a mixture of gratitude and humility) why he’d been spared to go on living, and someone came to him and said, “Dude, you think you’re lucky. But you know what? You’re not. Because THOSE sprouts, the ones that got pulled out of this life so early? They’re going to fulfill their destiny. They’re going on to do the thing they were created to do. They’ll become part of a larger organism, playing a critical role in cell growth and immune function. Sure, they’ll die first. But you know what? At least they will have died for a reason. You? You’re going to die too, but your death is going to be pointless. Nothing useful will come of your having ever lived. No one, nothing, will ever remember you were ever even here. And it’s going to happen soon. Now who’s the lucky one?”

And then I start applying the concepts to a larger picture. I think about our lives and I think about how sad we get when someone dies young, but maybe that’s the wrong approach. Maybe as long as they died FOR something then they’re the lucky ones. And how can we even know whether they died for something or not. Maybe what looks like a tragic accident or a terrible disease is really part of some bigger scheme and they’re going on to do something important, be part of something bigger, and we’re just the stragglers left here to wash down the drain at the end of the day.

That’s the point at which I usually start frantically pulling up stragglers, trying to get every last single sprout into the harvest container for later consumption. Until I start thinking about OCD disorder and decide I don’t want to be quite THAT crazy, so I stop.

And then, I start imagining the whole thing as an essay and about three minutes later, I drop the scrub brush and run to the computer to type it up.

Yup, so that’s what my mind does. Pretty much non-stop. Every day. All day. And until today it hadn’t occured to me that it might be a little strange. Am I the only one? What weird things does your brain do?

12 thoughts on “Sprout Massacre”

  1. That’s not weird; you just wrote a story, is all. Possibly you’re romanticizing your life because deep down you can’t grapple with the fact that you’re preparing sprouts for dinner instead of fighting dragons off of princesses. Instead of thinking about yourself, which is disappointing (read: no dragons), you’re thinking about the sprouts.

    1. Yeah, I wonder if this might divide down the lines of “writers” and “not writers.” Carey, my husband who hates to write, says I am, without any doubt, completely insane.

      As to your other point, I’m definitely romanticizing life, because life is unbearably dull if left to its own devices. And not just my life. I suspect that even killing dragons would get to be as boring as laundry after the first couple times. It’s on us to spice life up. And I spice mine up by telling stories about sprout massacres.

  2. I don’t think it’s weird. Or maybe I’m just as weird as you are? Because my mind works in the same way. Mine is always trying to untangle big concepts starting with the most innocent little things. Like I will think to myself as I watch a leaf fall to the ground, “Wow, that leaf was the first one to fall from that tree! My goodness, this year has gone so fast. Where did the time go? My kids are getting closer and closer to leaving the nest. Soon winter will be here. I wonder if the seasons seem to go this fast with other species? Do they even recognize time the same way? Do chimps know that winter is coming? And how short our time is on this Earth relative to the universe. I wonder if the universe is expanding as rapidly as they think?”. This is what my brain does. Geez. My brain needs to chill out!

    1. Awesome. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone, and I’m not surprised that you & Jaimie are like me in this way. You both are also highly creative. (Jaimie’s a novelist. You’re a photographer. I guess you knew that already about yourself.) Maybe this is what sets us apart? This tendency for our brains to be constantly searching for meaning and stories in every day events.

      I’m drawing conclusions about this quickly, based on only two online comments and one from my husband, because that’s a completely valid way to go about it. And because this is what my brain does. And yours too, apparently.

  3. Oh, Lord! The list is so long! Ha! The revelations I come up with while in the shower or on the pot are just innumerable! Hehehe…I can’t imagine that anyone thinks the way I do. I get a lot of those, Okaaaaay?” looks, mostly from my hubby. Thank goodness my children have Autism. They are the only ones who probably understand me and I tell ya what, I’m getting pretty good at figuring out how their brain works, too.

    1. Somehow, Lisa, hearing that your brain does similar things to mine, does not completely convince me that I’m not weird. No offense. :p

  4. This is how my mom used to get me to eat my food, by telling me how sad it would be if I didn’t. “The poor peas, Jessica — their only purpose in life is to provide nourishment for your body.” And it worked! Except for the lentil casserole, which I couldn’t choke down for all the anthropomorphism in the world.

    1. hahaha! I’ve never heard of someone anthropomorphizing as a strategy for getting vegetables into a child. Why don’t the parenting magazines publish useful tips like this?

      1. So, apparently your imagining actually has some truth to it:
        “Plants are not passive entities merely subject to environmental forces, nor are they ‘automata’-like organisms based only on reflexes and optimised solely for accumulation of photosynthate. Plants respond sensitively to environmental stimuli by movement and changes in morphology. They signal and communicate within and among themselves as they actively compete for limited resources, both above and below ground. In addition, plants accurately compute their circumstances, use sophisticated cost–benefit analysis and take tightly controlled actions to mitigate and control diverse environmental stressors. Plants are also capable of discriminating positive and negative experiences and of ‘learning’ (registering memories) from their past experiences.[29][30][31] Plants use this information to update their behaviour in order to survive present and future challenges of their environment. Plants are also capable of refined recognition of self and non-self, and are territorial in behaviour.” from the Wikipedia article on “Plant perception (physiology).” Fascinating!

        1. Isn’t it fascinating stuff?? The original inspiration for the novel came from some of that research. I got to wondering what would happen if a child were somehow born with the ability to sense all that ‘conversation’ going on among plants, and then to communicate back to them… and the rest is 76,000 words worth of history. 🙂 I’m delighted that the research is becoming more mainstream. I’m hoping it’ll boost my book a bit, but that remains to be seen. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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