"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Growing into the Light


My brother Mark and I were walking into a building together when I noticed the row of neatly symmetrical deciduous trees lining the sidewalk. Their unfamiliar tissuey pink flowers, more suited to spring than the hot August day, caught my eye first. The tremendous leaning of the trees toward the parking lot and away from the wall—like ladies in a row looking out together for the bus up the street—stopped us both.

"Do you know why plants lean toward the light?" Mark asked.

My mind immediately went to my elementary school answer. But I know my brother, who used to teach high school science. This was a trick question if ever I heard one.

"Isn't it to reach the sunlight? For photosynthesis?" I answered. "Is there more to it than that?"

And it turns out the answer is yes, to both questions.

I've taught kids for years that plants need light for photosynthesis. It was a relief to know I hadn't somehow been teaching the wrong thing.   There is, however, another process called phototropism in which cell growth occurs on the shaded side of leaves, pushing the plant toward the light.

As I marveled at the fact that growth was happening in the shadows, which seems so counter-intuitive, Mark tossed out, "Yup. Growth requires darkness. Life requires light."

We both recognized the power of those words the minute they left his mouth. My brother is experiencing his own time of shadows and intense growth. I'm not sure which of us needed his message more.

Growth happens in the darkness. Growth that nudges a plant toward the source of life. Toward warmth and light that provide nutrition and strength which in turn creates more of the hormone triggering more growth in the shadows.

We're finally having the summer that usually happens in July, or at least much earlier in August. It's hot and sunny. Bright air is full of life-giving light. My life right now feels much like the dark side of those trees. Shadowed with so much inner growth it's nearly impossible to find a comfortable way to be. As the cells on the backs of my inner leaves stretch and expand beyond their previously comfortable walls, I find myself leaning. Off-balance. Seeking the lush light of summer that seems just beyond my reach.

This design offers me much comfort in these days of my return to public education. It gives purpose to the shadows that lurk at every turn, and reminds me that only good can come from what now feels not-so-good. The sun meets my upturned face with a radiance that fills me with all I need to nourish a full flowering, driven by the growth of these dark days.

After our day together, I asked Mark to write about this same experience. He told me this morning that he had (I love it when my brothers listen to me!), but I didn't read his post until after I'd written this. I encourage you to read his story. His explanation of the science exceeds my elementary understanding. His wisdom and heart shine bright in every word. 

37 comments:

#1Nana said...

I drove down along the Columbia River earlier this week to visit an old friend in The Dalles. It was a glorious summer day. It feels like summer has finally arrived and I am relishing every minute. I look forward to reading about your return to the classroom.
Jann

Retired English Teacher said...

This is one of the most amazing posts about growth and life that I think I have ever read. Where would I be without the beautiful way you teach me to be observant? Thanks for sharing.

patricia said...

Wisdom, Deb. As always.

Wanda said...

We are on parallel paths, it seems. Lovely moment with your brother.

DJan said...

I will head over to read the brother after saying thank you for the lovely post! Life is good right now here in the PNW.

Barb said...

I like that that growth occurs in darkness but life needs light. I'll remember that, Deb. I think those plants are Foxgloves (Digitalis) - they tend to do best in partial shade.

Stacy Crawford said...

Wow, what a profound thought. I never look forward to the darkness and growing time in life. But, when I come out on the otherside, I'm always grateful for the ride.

I hope you come out on the other side, better, happy and content.

Niki said...

wonderful post, such divine wisdom in the great design.

Journaling Woman said...

Love this post! Since I'm not comfortable in (literal) darkness, I always find myself heading for whatever flicker of light my eyes can find.

I find it interesting that when I am in my darkest moments in life, the hope inside of me tries to find a flicker of light to move to.

This gives me a thought on a post too.

Teresa

Wanda..... said...

Your brother Mark's writing is as inspiring as your wonderful writing, Deb.

Janna Qualman said...

Your brother's quote is going on my list of inspirational life thoughts, Deb.

"Growth requires darkness. Life requires light."

Tell him thanks. That is beautiful.

Dee Ready said...

Your thoughts, presented so serenely with a cadence always of lyricism, never fails to start my dendrites branching into new areas of thought. Into new reflections. Into the mystery of growth in darkness and life in light.

How wonderful that we can grow older and keep learning and keep walking into those patches of shadowy darkness into the light of new being. Peace

Linda Hoye said...

I'm heading over to read your brothers post now. I love his quote.

I am basking in these recent days when it seems like summer has finally arrived here in the PNW too.

Lilith said...

I went to your brother's blog and wow. Thank you.

LauraX said...

Oh Deb, this is an exquisite post. The truth we all intuitively know, yet resist. Dark is scary, but completely necessary. Thank you for your prayers. I return them to you as well my friend.

kario said...

I really needed this today. I love the relationship you and Mark have forged and the gentle wisdom that it brings. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Linda Myers said...

What a post! Thanks for the insight about growth happening in darkness. That's usually been the case for me.

Jessica Nelson said...

WOW. Those are great words. I'm going to remember this. Also will pop over to his site.

Sandi said...

What a great lesson learned here! "Growth requires darkness. Life requires light."

I love how you wove this quote from Mark through your post. Made me ponder the darkness in my own life this summer. :)

(I'm also glad we've been mostly teaching it correctly about the light thing. But, I'm going to head over to Marks post to learn more.)

Mark Lyons said...

I loved your telling of this story. It was a great day spent together and the reflections on life that it brought to both of us can be life changing.

I love you
Mark

deborahjbarker said...

I have just read your brother's post Deb. Both are a joy to read (do I sound like an English teacher?) The lesson learnt is a good one but my favourite line from your post is:
"like ladies in a row looking out together for the bus up the street" That line made me smile and instantly see the flowers as you saw them. Wish I had written it! :-)
Debbie

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the reminder about gestation: that on the dark side of trees, under a frozen river there is movement creating possibility.
-Wendy

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

With this beautiful post, you gave us enlightening lessons about growth,life, light and darkness. And the analogy that you've presented is just perfect.
Thanks again for this piece of wisdom that you shared through your personal experience.

She Writes said...

I have spent some serious time in the dark. I hope you are right! Beautifully written.

Ann Best said...

Darkness and light. Opposites. To know one you have to know the other. Thus, I agree: growth requires darkness. I think this all makes perfect sense. And now I'll go over to visit your brother!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Ann Best said...

I just read your brother's post. How true that when we experiences time of "darkness" in our lives, we are actually growing--I would add "hopefully better."

Retired Knitter said...

Dear Deb,

Thank you so much for visiting my blog recently and commenting on my new series of posts retelling the story of my last 5 care giving years for mom.

I am not sure where the inspiration came to start writing about all of this, but I am glad I did. It has helped me to understand better what I have been through, what is continuing and maybe a bit of what the future holds for me. And let's not forget all the wonderful people I have "met" by beginning this series.

Stopping by your blog and reading your "Growing into the Light" post was startling. I felt you wrote it just for me. I am writing future posts now and have touched on a similar theme - growth in dark (for me surviving) and recognizing the periodic intense light of joy ... there is joy in care giving, but is surrounded by a lot of dark, unfortunately.

I find your blog thought provoking and helpful ... I'll be back!

Desiree said...

I am late in reading this, Deb, but that has in no way altered the tremendously philosophical impact of your words! You always write from a place of such depth and always leave me in awe.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

So many thoughtful blogs I'm reading tonight. My mind is tired so I'm perhaps wandering with my thoughts. I kind of like being in the dark sometimes. Often much too often.

Best of luck with your upcoming school year. I know you wish you were doing something else, but perhaps this might be what you need right now. To push you out from the darkness.

Cheryl said...

Wow those words are powerful "Growth requires darness, life requires light." I will always remember them. Deb I don't think you actaully do blog awards but I couldn't resist including you in the pass along of my latest award. Your writing is so delightful I do hope it sends a few more your way!

Kathryn Magendie said...

"Growth requires darkness. Life requires light."

this is fascinating for the trees, and insightfully lovely for us humans . . .

Patricia Iles said...

Beautiful and profound. Thank you so very much for sharing that wisdom.

I'm your newest follower. Stop by and see me sometime...
www.contemplatinghappiness.blogspot.com

Wendy said...

This is lovely. What a great post!

colbymarshall said...

"growth happening in the shadows" What a pretty, pretty phrase, Deb. Again, beautiful post. :-)

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

What an insightful post, Deb.

Beautifully written, and so profound. I love the analogy.

Thank you for this powerful post.

I am going to check out your brother's post.

Blessings.

Doris

Kathryn Grace said...

"Growth requires darkness. Life requires light."

How beautiful, and how useful. Thank you.

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