I met her in spring.
She moved into an adjoining studio at the art space we rented–her space transformed into rows of books and curios. A quirky table supported her laptop and the walls became creative collages and paintings. Ken met her first–and said, “you’ve got to meet her! You’re going to love her.” He was excited–hoping she and I would bump into each other sooner rather than later.
We instantly hit it off. She was an artist and writer–vibrant, in touch, full of energy. Gardening was one of her expressive connections to the world, having owned a nursery, and plants just seemed to leap into being at her touch. She turned the sandy yard around her adobe house into a bounty of vegetables and fruit–Moonflowers clinging to the fences and corners. A few native silver nightshade cultivated to add punctuation.
She shared seeds and mint cuttings with me the following year. They were from plants she’d cultivated herself. Beans, peppers, tomatoes, hollyhocks. The mint arrived in a glass Pepsi bottle, fluffy and bright green–ready for transport. New roots suspended in clear water. I planted everything. The seeds went from seedlings to plants, to fruit and beans–from which I again saved seeds to grow the next year. Mingled with seeds my dad had sent me, that year my garden thrived–even in the poor, alkaline, sandy soil that I had to work with.
I planted the mint at 5 locations in the yard and carefully tended it.
In mid-summer, we had a falling out. The ebb and flow of human connection. The mint seemed to suffer briefly–curling back a bit, but every time I saw them and the young plants, I thought fondly of her, and of all of the plant ancestors from which the seeds and cuttings had come. We had participated in an age-old technique, growing and sharing seeds, so that if we could pull the camera back past our present day, we could see the connections between all of the plants and seeds in our area, our state, our country, the world. A hundred seed traders, a hundred thousand plants, a hundred thousand years.
Winter came, the plants died back. The mint curled in on itself, waiting for spring. I saved seeds again.
This year, the garden is growing again. Funded now, at least partially, by second generation seeds from our original share. The mint is back in full force, bigger, bolder, healthier, more green than ever. The hollyhock seeds that she shared, while silent last year, have now popped up–rising, renewing.
And I hope to keep it going for as long as it’s willing to provide.
The roots and seeds we lay down are forever.
Planted, they grow and change–descended from the original gesture. Plant kind seeds, kindness grows.
Though we may move around and change, the roots and seeds we put down leave a trace. Seeds form such a simple, kindly gesture are now deeply rooted in the earth. After I move, the mint will still be established. The hollyhocks will still grow. The legacy is there.
The roots, underground, will return to share again.
Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.
Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing.
How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.
–from the Tao Teh Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation.