by Paula Kaiman(This story is dedicated to Jen Frey, a sower of many seeds.)
One long-ago September at age nine, I created a science project for school---a large and neatly labeled seed chart composed on poster board with scotch tape. How thrilling it was to discover each beautiful and highly varied specimen, as Earth bejeweled her autumn cloak with seeds of hope for the year to come!
I was especially delighted by the bright red, round asparagus seed from my father's enormous vegetable garden. Promising the first harvest of the spring, it crowned the chart in carnelian splendor, as if of royal lineage, a leader among the rest. Best of all was my Dad with face alight, guiding and supporting me, teaching me the secrets of the seeds.
Decades passed. The memory of my childhood project faded from heart and mind. The time arrived when, like his beloved plants, my father grew old and returned to the soil. All that remained of his glorious garden were a dwindling, weed-filled raspberry patch, three dense clumps of ancient rhubarb, and a scrappy plot of asparagus stalks that still coronate early spring. In April they rose up from the ground, then lived and died without him, leaving behind their succulent, gem-like seeds.
Without the warmth of my father's smile, the basket of life felt empty as a garden in winter. No medicine could heal the hurt of its hollow. No harvest could fill it up. Then, in late September---inspired by an herbalist friend---I went out seed-collecting. Several afternoon walks and three gallon buckets of plant matter produced a yield of less than a quarter cup. After carefully culling and drying, I transferred my seeds to a small glass jar.
Right from the start, I could feel their presence within me. I began to feel reinvigorated. The veils of time parted; a sense of wonder resurged and grew. I recalled my special poster...and the face of love I once knew. For a moment, I felt nine years old again---reseeded---fresh as a new asparagus shoot.
I thought about the birds and other creatures who work so hard to glean a life from seeds and, through their ongoing feast, help propagate the wild garden. I remembered my gentle father, patiently planting seeds of his own. I considered the amazing, compact secret each seed contains within. I thought of this as well: We, too, are seeds...each one a Promise, highly varied and beautiful in our own way. Emissaries of Hope, together we bejewel the cloak of all that was, all that is, and all that is to come.
Thanks to seeds, both plant and human, my basket fills again---brimming with fistfuls of priceless memories---while embryos of new hope reach upward, to flower in the promise of the light.