Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bring on your wrecking ball

Yep, we're fine--
my cortisol levels are just now starting to dip below those of a middle manager at Walmart, but we're OK


 "And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
And hard times come, and hard times go
Yeah just to come again...."

Just about everyone knows the story of autumn leaves. The tree breaks down stuff in the leaf, and carries the small pieces down to its roots, where they will sit until late winter, when they start the journey back up to its branches.

Folks north of here tap their maple trees and steal some of the sweet sap as it works its way towards the sky, boil it down to syrup, and if you have a pocket of dollars, might even share some with you.

It's a nice little story of renewal, our autumn leaves, because they come back again when the trees spring back to life in the spring.

Me, I'm more interested in the story of the beans. And they're dying. Hard times come--they always do. But hard times go--and in the warm May earth, a bean will arc its way back towards the sun.

Bean vines lose leaves, but even as they lose them, they make fruit. This may seem trivial, and I had hardly noticed it before, but this year I paid closer attention. My beans continue to flower and fruit even as the last few dried leaves fall off the vine.

A plant without leaves cannot capture the energy of sunlight, but there's little light left to catch in these parts. We're in the dark season, and will be, for the next 3 months. Leaves are hardly worth the energy needed to build them.

So where is the energy, where is the stuff, of my newest beans coming from? (Stuff comes from stuff, and energy from energy--sunlight is not converted into food, despite what Mrs. Mayberry Weatherby told you in second grade.)

I realized something this week that was so obvious I almost laughed--the beans we pick in November are sacrificial beans. The plant is tearing itself apart to make the last purple flower for a bee that just might come, to make that last November bean, before the plant dies. The sun no longer matters to the plant, because the fading sun is useless.

Leslie and I ate the last few beans yesterday--and they were as sweet as the blue November sky. Light's getting late for both of us--we notice things like this now.

We got our asses kicked pretty good by Sandy, but most of us are OK. Many of us are not. Now we get to do what we are meant to do--put the pieces back together, reversing the entropy of our neighborhoods.

Entropy is a tough concept--the universe becomes less orderly with every passing moment. Every time we do work, we increase the overall disorder. Thankfully we have the sun nearby, fusing hydrogen atoms into helium, and the tiny difference between the mass of each gives us our warm, bright sun, and the energy plants need to make complex organic molecules.

Equilibrium is also a tough concept for most students (and most adults), but we're all hurtling towards stability, and we'll all die long before we get there.

The more disordered the universe, the more stable it becomes. The crushed wreckage of a shore bungalow now lying at the edge of the sea is more stable than  than the cute, well-maintained sea cottage it once was, just two weeks ago.

When this is all over, whatever this this is, the universe will be  a cool, stable place. Heat death.
When we die, we drift towards equilibrium--the ancient myth makers had that much right.

Equilibrium. Stability. Balance.
Such reposeful words.

Fuck that. Bring on your wrecking ball.
So long as the sun remains in our sky, and plants are around to use it, we can do work, and right now we have a lot of work to do.

We're Jersey strong. If a November bean can build, so can we!
First song on Wrecking Ball is "We Take Care of Our Own"--thank you Bruce and Governor Christie


Anonymous said...

I just listened to gardeners question time, on BBR radio 4 (internet) where people were lamenting that frequently a plant has its best year ever,then dies the next year, and the plant owners then really miss it. The panel were pointing out that plants under stress (transplanted, or lack of water...) usually put all their effort into one final hurrah.
Sort of like a red corvette?

Unknown said...

It's interesting that I just posted a pretty anti-tech rant over at my blog and yet when Sandy hit, I learned about it from you and Leslie posting stuff on Facebook. I began to care about the storm only when it hit someone I cared about. Pretty selfish, I guess. Anyway, I'm glad you guys are safe and I appreciate your honesty through all of it.

Kathryn J said...

I'm glad you are doing well. I was concerned about you.

Love, love Bruce! Actually saw him on 10/31 just after Sandy hit and he sang all kinds of great Jersey songs - OK they're all Jersey songs but some that he rarely plays such as Asbury Park Rising and Jersey Girl. Bittersweet night as we thought of all of you.

doyle said...

Dear John,

Well, we're human, no? And had you sent a letter, eventually it would have gotten here, and even more eventually, you;d have gotten one back.

(I still need to get some books to you...)

Dear Kathryn,

Thanks--we're all OK. What a great concert that must have been!