We’re waiting for the asparagus, my sister and I. We have to wait three years for the roots of these slender green plants to become strong and densely networked enough to produce the delicious asparagus shoots. Every year for three years we have watched the straight green stalks sprout up directly towards the sky, and then turn into a waving, ferny forest of feathery leaves across the asparagus bed.
When can we eat them? I asked.
The root systems have to grow for another year.
I knew that.
But we can watch the leaves grow, and remember they are sending power to the roots.
I’m no biologist but this was interesting, and vaguely familiar.
People often invoke the metaphor of a plant putting down roots, or uprooted, or with roots spreading over the globe, to describe a migrant experience. We know you need roots to grow leaves. But I had forgotten that you also need new leaves to grow roots. Without the fresh green shoots photosynthesising like crazy, no solid stable base can survive, let alone expand. We praise the values which we impose onto roots: immobility, duration, strength, inter-connectedness, community, history. But we forget to praise the fronds and the tendrils which channel the sun’s energy back to them.
Without mobility, and novelty, and adventure and development and movement, no roots will be strong enough to keep the plant alive on their own. The roots and the shoots are inter-reliant. The roots keep the rainwater, but the stems and leaves reach, capture and transform the rays of sunshine.