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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Hope is a Corn Stalk

This summer a small stalk of corn announced its presence in the corner of my driveway while I was weeding the cracks of the summer weed invasion. This driveway, rife with sunken cracks near its entry, provides slivers of dry, dusty dirt into which various weeds cast their roots and cling to life.

No amount of weeding eradicates them permanently. Two thousand pound cars cannot crush the life out of them. It is as though they flatten against the pressure of all the forces that seek to destroy them.

Weeds simply have claimed this territory.

But a stalk of corn? For years, I have tried to actually grow corn in the few patches of soft soil that exist on the hard pan upon which our home is built. To no avail. And then, untended and unplanned, a corn stalk emerged in one of the cracks of the driveway.

The first few days, I fought a need to pull it out, perhaps simply because of the incongruence of its presence amidst the riffraff of growing things. But then, my science background called me to simply observe and take note, having already determined the hypothesis: Left untended and unwatered, this stalk would wither and die.

But in the heat of summer, a suggestion of two ears slowly began to form. I watched them when they first surfaced on the smooth stalk in their infancy. Leaving my home each morning, I noted in the changing light of sunrise how they fattened and spread. And I reveled in their growth and cheered them on like a mother watching her own child take those first wobbly steps.

The corn stalk simply refused to surrender to my hypothesis. Rather than death and decay, this corn stalk, its tassels lengthening, now brought a tantalizing promise of an impossible harvest.

Emily Dickinson once wrote that “Hope is a thing with feathers.” Though I have been drawn to this image for decades, there is something about the metaphor that makes hope seem so illusory and transitory. In the comparison, hope seems fragile and torn from its moorings, like a ship at sea. Hope becomes something just beyond our grasp as it floats on the vagaries of life’s breezes.

Not for me.

Hope is this corn stalk, tenaciously clinging to nothing more than a whisper of soil between asphalt and concrete. This hope commands attention as it stretches ever more closely to the sun. This hope announces, “I am here…strong, vibrant…persevering.”

Life is like this, I think. Not the blooming carefully tended flower boxes bursting with color and confined to their design. Not the well tilled soil of a backyard garden. Not the geometrical rows of a farmer’s field.

No, life is an errant piece of corn carried in a breeze or dropped carelessly from a pocket or carried in the debris deposit of a passing crow.

Life is this: a stalk of corn stretching towards the sun, taking sustenance from the tiniest source of nourishment and declaring hope as it clings to barren places.

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