A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Sprouts for the Win

This is the season of sprout. As  a verb, sprout is synonymous with spring, and means both the fresh growth itself and the activity it’s engaged in. The sprouts are sprouting up all over the place, tough but tender, on a sunward journey to transformation. Grab a rake on any patch of dirt and you’re bound to uncover some, their new green almost startling among the detritus of winter. 

It was Carl Sandburg who wrote that “a baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on,” and the same could surely be said of sprouts, whether one subscribes to the conventional capital-G God or uses that as shorthand or prefers to thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for it all. Without sprouts sprouting, we’d be nowhere; looking at a fresh sprout—really looking at it—it’s impossible not to feel a little shimmer of pleasure and hope.

“Sprouts represent the ultimate desire to live,” says Joel Mejia, founding member of Mi Oh My Hydroponic Farms, who has spent much time among wee new green lives. “Imagine that: against all odds a tiny seed can burst open, and while immediately confronted with gravity, it manages to grow and grow in a spiral until it is a giant compared to how it began. I see my life as no different than a sprout.”

Besides his role in a co-op producing nutrient-rich microgreens and mushrooms (they’re based in the Bronx, but CSA shares are available in Kingston too) Mejia is a producer at Dream Circle Music and an Artivist (artist and activist) at Things Are Changing Productions, collaborating with his equally accomplished wife Katy and sprouting nutrient-rich shoots of culture.

And he’s utterly spot on about life here. We start as wee sprouts with our DNA encoded in spirals that build us out until we’re ready to make a grand entrance, and then, for most, the gravity really starts to hit, but despite that, there is an awe-inspiring impulse to grow. We do our thing, practice, feel like we’re on a plateau or even still buried pretty deep, and then we look around and realize we’ve made it up a level or maybe slid back a half step, and adjust accordingly, but we grow most naturally in spirals and branchings-out. 

You can see it happening all over the place in spring. Now there’s another fantastic word. Spring is springing up and sprouting all around us, tightly wound reddish buds soon to unfurl in shades of golden green that will deepen as they age, bringing beauty and food and shade and the air we breathe. 

A cell, a seed, a sprout, a spore or a baby all contain within them absolutely everything they need to transform energy into something magnificent and useful, and that core stays within us as long as we’re breathing. As the sprout needs to twist its way up out of the soil, we humans often encounter a fair amount of resistance in the process, having to dodge gravity and sometimes work our way through cracks in stone to make it into the nourishing light and air.

Certain aspects of human existence—militaries, megacorporations, legal systems, political parties, authoritarian families—tend to attempt to impose straight lines on inherently curvaceous experience. Straight lines have their uses in architecture and mathematics, but they’re vanishingly scarce in the natural world, and fail miserably at describing and nurturing the bodaciously curvaceous forces of it. You mix straight lines with hard substances and what do you get? Most times, impervious surfaces. 

Impervious surfaces and straight lines may have their uses, but they have, in my sorta-humble opinion, been far too relied upon at least since the industrial revolution. It’s only in the last couple of decades that the smarter builders of infrastructure have realized that too many impervious surfaces can lead to poor stormwater management, which is not only a rotten thing to do to the surrounding non-impervious habitat but often causes damage to whatever it is that you were trying to make so danged impervious. As Robert Frost observed, something—something inexorable—doesn’t love a wall.

A cell, a seed, a sprout, a spore or a baby all contain within them absolutely everything they need to transform energy into something magnificent and useful.

True strength calls for circles and spirals, for sending out freshly sprouting shoots every which way. In the wonders of roots and branches, we can see a mirror of our own vital systems, branching gracefully from a powerful core out in every direction, and it’s ridiculous to think we should try to define our intangible growth and the things we think and feel and do in straight lines. 

Straight lines applied to humans tend to lead to adversarial and hierarchical systems, which self-evidently work out so well that the world is currently a peaceful place of plenty, organized in the best way imaginable to nurture the healthy flourishing of seeds and sprouts into beautiful, fully realized and joyful beings. PSYCH! It’s actually pretty clear that we could probably be doing a whole lot better in that regard. 

But what’s beautiful is how many of us are trying to honor the curves, working to build systems that are sustainably akin to the way growth appears in nature. Art and music and education happen with curves or they don’t really happen at all. We honor the curves when we practice humility and kindness and true restorative justice and harm reduction, when we honor the fact that everyone has that precious sprout of potential within even if it’s under a sharp-edged iceberg. We honor the curves when we collaborate on projects as simple as a roadside cleanup or as complex as starting a co-op business. We honor the curves when we support the local economy at every level. 

And the curves reward us in ways that straight lines never can. Look at your own emotional growth as a straight line. You can’t; it’s not possible. Viewed as a spiral, though, in which we keep revisiting many of the same points and issues from freshly elevated perspectives, things begin to sort themselves out a bit. Tapping into the power of the sprout, of the spring, and recognizing that limitless potential in each other, we are growing in ways that will prove to be incredibly precious long after the straight lines and ticky-tacky boxes have crumbled to dust.