Essays from
Giving Ground


Seeds refuse to go unnoticed. All this week they have silently been begging me for print.

There is tremendous silent energy packed into a seed. We are all seeds as spring moves inexorably towards us. When we wail, "I can't do everything!" and then we say "Yes!" to one more community task, what we are is seeds.

We all try to do too much. It is worst in the spring. Everything is splitting open then, and growing and needy - needy of water, compost, fertilizer, hugs, dentist appointments, clean hay, evening tutoring, desserts, rabies shots, posters, gravel, deadlines, arrangements, errands.

Sara intercepted my wild rushing around one day and gave me a newspaper printed up years ago by the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater in the Cities. In May. About seeds.

I waited for everything to slow down so I could just read, and nothing did slow down. It was fast coming into preparations for spring. I stole time to read. And this is what I found:

"On a Seed"

"This was the goal of the leaf and the root.
For this did the blossom burn its hour.
This little grain is the ultimate fruit.
This is the awesome vessel of power.
For this is the source of the root and bud
World unto world unto world remolded.
This is the seed, compact of God,
Wherein all mystery is enfolded."

by Georgie Starbuck Galbraith

It slowed me down, made me think instead of do. Years ago, one spring, Sara and I had printed this poem onto 1000 copies of the PTA newsletter we edited together. I had pinned it onto the wall of my garden shed. Would have it made up in calligraphic writing for a friend's baby shower.

And then I found my cache of turn-of-the-19th-century hollyhock seeds collected from old stock at a restoration village interpretive center garden in southern Minnesota.

And then I heard again a seed researcher on MPR, talking about how she had led a project to grow, collect and store enormous quantities of a certain type of bean seeds, so that when the fighting was over in a particular African country, this group of hers would ship over tons of seed for a new start for a nation rising from its knees. The seeds she collected are from turn-of-the-20th-century Mexico, a sturdy variety that could withstand little irrigation, even drought conditions, and remain hardy without heavy doses of pesticide. These seeds had been popular before war came to that African country, but the crops couldn't be tended or harvested during the fighting, and all the seed crop would be entirely devoured as a very short-term pact against hunger. Like other, more recent caches of seed, these seeds would not be altered by chemistry, would not be hybridized. This seed would be collected and saved by the African farmers, after the war and after the first harvest, and would grow the following year, true to original form.

Now there are banks of seeds, Seed-Savers groups formal and informal, one world-wide sponsored and encouraged by Rosemary Gladstar, who is a world-class American herbalist. There are now underground, temperature and humidity-controlled vaults of seed here in this country, to maintain "seed archives" and "seed history" against one disaster or another.

When we wail, as a nation, "We can't do everything!" and we mean that we can't police the world and settle every ancient and modern claim to territory, we can still say "Yes!" to one thing; we can be a repository for seeds. We can wait and be ready. When the worst of the darkness lifts, we will have seeds, and be seeds. And water and be watered.

If we have water.

Copyright 2013 by Pam Thompson

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