“Look, Granny. Basil sprouting!” exclaimed my granddaughter as she took me to see the tiny seedlings on the table. Earlier, we had wandered around looking for sprouting things. We marveled at tulips poking through the leaf mulch and the blossoms of the hellebore Lenten Rose. The hellebore is the first thing to bloom in my garden and I am always tickled when it blooms before Easter.
A few days later, my husband and I took our granddaughter to Seedy Saturday, a nationwide movement that promotes the cultivation and preservation of heirloom and endangered varieties of food crops.
Our local event had a kids’ planting table, and before our granddaughter planted her bean seed, she cradled it in her tiny hand as if she were in the presence of something holy.
I have a healthy respect for seeds. Coming from an Italian background, I grew up with a vegetable garden. It was a riot of plants that produced abundant crops, many of which my father planted from the seeds he saved annually.
From seed to table, crunchy carrots, juicy tomatoes, meaty roman beans, tender lettuce and bitter radicchio tantalized (or tortured) my taste buds and nourished my body.
I used to wonder why my father kept seeds when it would have been simpler and tidier to buy them. But, keeping seeds was a symbolic way to stay connected with the land that my father’s family had farmed for generations in the old country. The seeds kept us rooted.
I shared some of this with Mohawk seed keeper Terrylynn Brant, who sees an intimate connection between the seed, ancestors and land. From an early age, she was mindful of the importance of keeping the seeds of her ancestors, some of which, she told me, go back to time immemorial.
For Brant, a seed is a sacred thing and a metaphor for our innate dignity and goodness. The Creator, she said, has given seeds an inherent responsibility “to continue who they are and what they are” and the seed will always do its best to honor that responsibility.
Brant applies this concept to people. “The Creator sent us here as beautiful, perfect beings. He intended us to grow beautiful, to be compassionate with our fellow man, to share everything we have, to love one another. And yet, we are the ones who mess that up…We should look at the seed, and we should be reminded every time we hold it in our hands what is pure, what is good, what is right.”
There is a genius to a seed that we miss when we lose contact with the soil and our food source. Sowing a seed, nurturing its growth, and plucking its fruit off the vine does more than feed our bodies; it nourishes our spirit.
When we wonder at basil sprouting or feel our heart leap up at the blooming of a Lenten Rose, we touch the goodness inherent in our selves and intuit the possibility for our own transformation and that of the world.