scanned mesquite beans

The unbearable lightness of beans

by Paul Mirocha

mesquite beans on the ground

Passing the last five months of worldwide pandemic quarantined inside my house, I did what I usually do when things get weird: go for a walk.

One doesn’t need to go far. There are ideas and beauty just beyond the front porch. A lot of mesquite trees live in my neighborhood, and they were, as usual, dropping their beans in May and June. Many of them are still there where they fell, now in August. People have already begun raking them up for the trash–an awful waste of food.

I found myself picking up a bean or two on my morning and evening walks. One or two would catch my eye. The pods feel good in the hand. A little heavier than air.

I wondered about how individual trees of the same species tended towards certain shapes. Even on one tree, each bean is slightly different. To answer that question, one might pick every bean from one tree and draw or photograph it. Then again, some of the shape shifting may take place on the ground as things dry out.

Back in my tiny housebound office, drawing mesquite beans became a morning meditation before starting my working day. Another word for that is therapy.

Two Mesquite pods, from Paul Mirocha's sketchbook

Each bean pod has a different gesture, or pose. Yes they pose. An individual bean, rotated in the hand shows many different poses. These curves are simple, elegant, serene, and sexy. I swear they have the common vanity of all vegetables. Plants like to be noticed and admired. Drawing is a high form of that. I have observed this first-hand.

Ephemeral as they are, my summer fling with these beans gave me something back as well.

Mesquite pod, from Paul Mirocha's sketchbook
Mesquite pods, from Paul Mirocha's sketchbook
Mesquite pods, from Paul Mirocha's sketchbook
Mesquite bug sketch, drawing by Paul Mirocha
Don’t forget the Mesquite bug

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