These days I do a lot of my walking in the woods. I’ve always loved the woods and as a child I spent many happy hours exploring the woods around my home in Hyannis.
Yes, it’s true. There once were woods all through Hyannis. I woke in the night to songs of whip-poor-wills outside my window and was entertained by the largest, fattest toad in the world that spent his evenings by our old brick steps waiting for bugs and moths that were drawn to our back door light.
I was a tree climber, a fort builder, a day dreamer and a voracious reader. Reading a book, high up in a tree while squirrels and birds scolded and sang all around me? Heaven.
There’s a certain safety in the woods. All those trees and shrubs offer up their quiet steadfastness and if I’m still, I can feel it seeping into my skin and slowing my breath and my heartbeat. There’s a soundtrack of birds in the branches above and leaves crunching beneath my feet, the trickle of water from a nearby stream and the whine of trees rubbing each other in a brisk spring wind. The dirt itself smells fresh, full of life and when I pick up a handful, little beings wriggle and scuttle. These tiny creatures break down the fallen leaves, the broken branches and the remains of animals that are otherwise undigestible. There are the incredibly velvet greens of fresh mosses that are so rich and vibrant they make me swoon, the delicate shield-like patterns of lichen quilted against the dark bark of trees, and solid grays of boulders.
Spring in the woods is a time of birth and new growth. Tiny plants are pushing up all around. There are spring flowers, leaves unfurling and reaching for the light. There are new pine trees, new holly trees and fledgling oaks. In time, these young trees will squabble silently as they reach for the sky and not all will make it. Some will grow faster than others, blocking the sun from their competitors. Some will die and some will grow in zigs and zags to follow the light as best they can. But in the beginning, they all have hope. They all imagine a future, bright and tall.
All these flowers and trees grow from seeds. Some of those seeds are quite small and unimpressive looking, but that doesn’t stop them. I planted seeds in my own garden this past week and each type of seed was unique. There were the round radish seeds, the pointy lettuce seeds, the bulky spinach seeds and the dried peas among others. I made little furrows, sprinkled in the seeds, patted a bit of my own composted soil over them and watered them in. Now I wait. A seed is a good lesson in patience.
The seeds planted in pots on my windowsills have already grown into little plants. Some will give me tomatoes, others zinnias. There are micro greens growing and a whole lot of organic pea sprouts that will end up in salads and sandwiches. They turn their little heads to the sun, and I turn them. Within an hour or so, they turn their little heads again and we play this moving game all day long so they don’t get too leggy and weak.
A seed is an awe-inspiring thing if you stop to think about it. A whole life sits in that tiny seed, or more accurately the potential of a whole life. Seeds not only are the embryo of the plant, but they carry their own nutrients, which gives them a good start when they find their planting place. Their third part protects the other tender parts, and that is the coating. In order to germinate, a seed must break its own special coating when the time and circumstance is right. Until then, the coating serves as a bit of a bodyguard, keeping it safe from unfriendly elements.
Planting a seed is a true exercise in hope. If you’ve planted seeds before you know they don’t all germinate at the same time and some never germinate at all. We watch over them, water them, feed them, move them around to find the best places for them.
As they grow, we marvel at the way stems and leaves unfurl. We watch buds grow and flower, and we wait patiently for fruits, berries and vegetables to form and develop.
A seed isn’t just planted in the soil, and not all seeds are plants. Some are thoughts and beliefs, planted in our minds and hearts. It is up to us to nurture them with love, not spite, with hope, not hate. Happy May, everyone. May all your seeds grow and prosper.