Life Within a Seed

“Inside even the most minute, dustlike grain of seed is a living plant. True, it’s in embryonic form, possessing only the most rudimentary parts, but it lives, and it is not completely passive.”

The New Seed-Starters Handbook, by Nancy Bubel

If there’s anything that’s taught me about living fully planted in the moment, it’s August on my farm.  The rains that drenched April and May are gone, sending only brief postcards to the present in the form of wicked strong midnight thunderstorms.  The green flush the entire world wore in June has become a golden patina that would whisper “autumn”, if the sun weren’t baking everything into molten lava.

However, I will not wish this moment away, yearning for sweater weather or Jack Frost and his nose-nipping ways.  One, because winters here in New England are brutal affairs, lasting far longer than their calendar boundaries, and two (and more importantly), because there is still much to be done before cooler weather, and almost none of it do I have any agency over.

The pumpkins need another month or so of growth, before they’re ready for that nice little frost to sweeten them up.  The winter squash are just starting to firm up, and still need another two weeks to cure in the fields before they’re ready for storage.  The corn has time still, and the tomatoes haven’t yet reached the critical mass where they ripen all at once and threaten to bury the world under their weight.

Then there are the beans—six different varieties, planted in neat rows just one week ago.  Ideally, they’ll be ready right as fall hits, and while this part of the world starts packing up another growing season, my family will still be eating fresh green beans, full of the flavor of summer thunderstorms.

I walk between the bean rows a couple times every day, pulling back mulch, checking for new sprouts.  I held them in my hands the day I planted, marveling at the variation not just between varieties- the deep crimsons and purples of the Vermont cranberry beans, the shockingly patterned yin-yang of the Calypso beans- but also the difference between the beans themselves.  No two beans are identical, and there in my palm, I hold something science knows to be alive.  We know that even in seed form, there are plants within that carry on respiration- inside those hard shells, there is a living thing that absorbs oxygen and emits carbon dioxide.  Science recognizes a living thing hidden within the seed coats and cotyledons, recognizes it despite its rudimentary parts and passive nature.  You don’t plant a seed and wait for it to come alive. It’s already alive, waiting for its proper time

In these fiery hot days of August, it sometimes seems like the world has lost its way. We as a country mourn the death of a lion halfway around the world, but turn a jaded eye away from news of fetal tissue trafficking. Lawmakers posture and rush to a hasty, ill-fated vote to defund an abortion giant, rather than investigating and gathering the sort of evidence that would stand on its own, and not be subject to the whims of corrupt politics and corrupt politicians.

We run the risk of doing the same thing in our inner lives.  We berate ourselves for not making suitable progress in holiness, thinking somehow we can force sanctity into our souls.  We want to rush whole seasons of our lives—wanting singlehood to give way to matrimony, for childlessness to give way to parenthood, for that anticipated job to appear, health crisis to end, on and on and on.

All the time we rush and flail and think somehow if we just do the right things, in the right order and with the right amount of conviction, the results will come faster.  Thinking, in our heart of hearts, that maybe our actions will force God to bend to our will.  Or at least speed Him up a little.

But anyone who has ever held a bean seed in their hand, and marveled at the beauty of it, knows this isn’t the way.  You cannot rush through seasons and expect to improve upon God’s time or His results.  You don’t have to complete some frantic set of actions to force life into things. Like that bean seed, there is life already there.  It is not our job to force.  It is our job to prepare.  Prepare and wait and nurture the seedlings when they emerge.

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Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a website for her farm, Ghost Fawn Homestead.

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