from Magic Moments:
“The seeds on my carpet were not going to lie stiffly where they had dropped like their antiquated cousins, the naked seeds on the pine cone scales. They were travelers. Struck by the thought, I went out next day and collected several other varieties. I line them up now in a row on my desk—so many little capsules of life, winged, hooked or spiked. Every one is an angiosperm, a product of the true flowering plants. Contained in these little boxes is the secret of that far-off Cretaceous explosion of a hundred million years ago that changed the face of the planet. And somewhere in here, I think, as I poke seriously at one particularly resistant seedcase of a wild grass, was once man himself.” – Loren Eiseley in “How Flowers Changes the World”
I have always been fascinated by the science and mystery of seeds. I first noticed seeds when I opened packages of Ferry’s seeds for the back yard garden mother chaperoned when I was young. Later on, I discovered the poetic writings of such naturalists as Loren Eiseley whose 1957 book The Immense Journey blended in my mind the facts of science with the mysteries behind the world’s metaphors about seeds, seasons, and the cycles of time.
Place a seed in the soil and it waits. Perhaps it dreams. Years ago, I saved a cartoon out of a magazine–perhaps it was the Saturday Review or The Atlantic–that showed an acorn dreaming of the mighty tree it would become, but then in succeeding drawings, that dream became smaller and smaller as a squirrel nibbled it away. While there was something dark and amusing about this cartoon, it bothered me because it represented what might have been. While they wait, perhaps seeds dream of the roses and pine trees and grasses they will become while worrying about squirrels.
We make much of spring in our metaphors and myths and for that, I suppose, we have seeds and flowers to thank, for they not only made it possible for us to be here, they gave us a road map that reads equally well in planting guides and poems and fantasy. When the waiting seed meets water and warmth, enzymes release food energy, the seed coat opens, oxygen enters, and growth begins followed by the urgent need to breath the soil with a sprout and first leaves.
I used flax, flax seeds and linen in Sarabande because the steps taking seeds to yarn remind me of the steps taking a child to an adult and the equally mysterious steps leading that adult’s whole self to bloom into all the possibilities once dreamt of by the egg in the womb. But I could have used roses or even squash!
I see seeds in stories where seeds aren’t mentioned because the metaphors and mysteries of seeds have stayed with me for years, ever since the first seed was planted in my mind when I opened a Ferry’s packet over the waiting earth of our garden and saw that what I held in my hand would become squash and become tomatoes and with even more seeds that would one day lead to probable plants and worlds spinning off in all directions.
The “immense journey” in the title of Loren Eiseley’s classic book refers, of course to the journey of life on the planet. Yet I cannot help but think that each seed also sets out on an immense journey after its period of dormancy ends with the spring. Perhaps at some level of our psyches, every flax seed and every human knows where the journey will take them. Perhaps we know and then we forget until the water, warmth and light have reached their appointed moments in our transformation.
“Flowers changed the face of the planet,” wrote Eisely. “Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star.” I hope Thompson was right.
As I ponder this post written for my soon-to-be-discontinued blog “Magic Moments,” I think that with the increasing amount of discussion these days about the Goddess and Mother Earth, that we forget that seeds germinate in darkness; without it, they come to nothing. We are often quick to marginalize, ban and libel everything dark from the dark goddess to the mysteries of the moon to night itself. There is symbolism in the immense journey of seeds that we can apply to our lives, beginning with the idea that if we are kept out of the darkness by religions, cultures, industries, governments and societal mores and folkways, we are stunting our growth from the beginning.