Which Way to Go?

by Kimi Hardesty

Terry Tempest Williams wrote, “To unravel is to reveal what has been hidden.” This I know to be true. Despite the darkness leading up to the Spring Equinox, the planets, earth, and newly-emerging green reveal there’s been much going on. We just need to unravel it.

I’ve been in winter darkness, shorter days due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. I’ve been in solitude, forced by COVID-19 and a cold winter in Lexington, Kentucky. I don’t like the cold. I’ve been in a state of disheartenment, pressed into my body from death, riots, and lies. And a lack of green.

On too many days, snow has covered the ground, forcing me to make my own path to the chicken coop rather than following the one my dog, Rosie, and I have worn down, the one without grass in the warm months. At the coop, I place fresh water on the heating tin. I used that waterer when I first got my girls, pullets who reminded me of awkward teenagers. I watched them grow like weeds their first Spring and thought of them as seasonal blessings.

Now I hurry to scoop out chicken droppings from five hens, excrement mixed with pine shavings, tossed into the compost pile-nourishment for upcoming gardens. The hens and I don’t chit chat as much, and the gardens are without green. I hurry back in to the glow of candles set alight in the salon of my home; I do a lot of thinking there.

There are things I like in the times of winter darkness. The way the thick layer of never-raked leaves blankets the ground, feeding the earth in preparation for Spring, gifts of hope. There is magic in the unseen unraveling and revelation beneath darkness, the way perennials know when to begin their journey out of the black. And later, in the Spring, the way newly-planted seeds come to life, tiny green secrets in the midst of an uprise.

I like to think the animals in my yard–fox, opossum, rabbits, squirrels and birds–might gossip about the newest green something pushing through the earth. And I wonder, how do the shoots and roots know which way to go?

From Merriam-Webster:


gra·vit·ro·pism | \ grə-ˈvi-trə-ˌpi-zəm  \

Definition of gravitropism

:a tropism (as of plant roots or shoots) in which gravity is the stimulus :GEOTROPISM No matter what the orientation of a seed for instance, the roots will always grow down to the soil. This has a special name, gravitropism, and is movement in response to the force of gravity… Jeanette Mackay

This past year has been a difficult one filled with uncertainty. I’ve felt I didn’t know which way was up or down. Thankfully, the seeds I’ll plant this Spring–cosmos, zinnias, milkweed and celosia, among others, will know which way to go. A Spring promise. The seeds have this ability to find the light (if only we could always be like plants) via regulators called auxins. Auxins do all sorts of things, including helping roots and stems know which way to grow.

The entire process of gravitropism helps unravel and reveal secrets beneath darkness, the green of tiny shoots coming forth. Roots are also on the move. We know around the time of the Spring Solstice, the work of soil preparation, planting, making plans becomes reality. The arrival of more sunlight, longer days and warmer weather gives rise to the promise of sweet scents, pollinators. A new beginning, a fresh start, the chance to try out new flowers, never-planted hybrid tomatoes. The old standby bulbs thrust through the soil reaching for the light. Green and yellow mixed with hope and brown leaves.

I think about darkness and hardship and new beginnings like the Spring Equinox and my choice to remain the wound or to heal–which way to go with the newest catastrophe, however large or small. I imagine the dark splitting open just a sliver, pressing, pushing, opening, a struggle to let the light in. The choice to feed the under-tended seeds beneath the earth who come, waging through the dirt with their green.

Which way to go? For me, I’ll move toward a new beginning.

photo credit: Julian Paolo Dayag