Sowing Seeds of Purpose
Survival looks different for all of us. Thriving is often a function of making it through a struggle, then realizing it could have been better or worse, and still, there you are. Sometimes surviving is the best we can do. Surviving masquerades as doing our best and helping others so no one notices we’re leaden with the burden of making it. Sometimes surviving means spreading pieces of ourselves in many directions in hopes that we are remembered as something.
The tops of the subalpine fir trees dip with the weight of an abundance of cones. The Western white pine nearly groans under the weight of her long heavy cones. Everywhere I look the trees are heavily coning, and my heart feels a tug. The trees speak their worry with the silent voice of slowed growth and moving their energy from needle and trunk growth to over-seeding. Their quiet knowing radiates a peaceful surrender to the now.
For almost two years now, the humans, us, we, have scurried about with our hands getting chapped from washing, spraying sanitizer everywhere, dropping disposable masks in parking lots to remind us all we’re done but not quite finished with this new way of approaching our world. The trees have stood, mostly silent, living their own struggle of existence.
In many places across the U.S. there’s been record-breaking drought. Years of drought have gone mostly unnoticed during election cycles and crises management. Fires get attention. Lack of crops gets attention. Wells drying up get attention. The time of attention has come.
In the area I live and care for my community, it is beyond comprehension the lack of moisture. The crispness of leaves and grasses that would usually brush against my golden summer legs now scrape and scratch, breaking under foot, crumbling to dust. It’s dry here. It’s parched. In Eastern Washington we’re used to a bit of dry and a bit of fire and a bit of water restriction here and there. It’s part of the four season upper-left-coast lifestyle.
Not like this. Not the way the earth has begun to crack and the native flowers aren’t even open long enough to be pollinated before they bake and disintegrate in the blazing sun and heat. We have reached extremes.
"I don’t even know what to call these times we are living in, but I imagine them to be a time of heavy coning. A time to put every bit of ourselves into the seeds of purpose, change, community, and courage. It’s okay to let go of growing outward when we can produce seeds that will impact the world."
One of the first signs of drought in conifer trees is needle dropping. That means the needles yellow and drop more than usual. Think of a Christmas tree left to seal off its cut, dumping its needles onto plush carpet. Evergreens are called evergreens for a reason. They maintain their foliage year round. In times of drought the tree must pull its energy resources inward and that impacts new growth and the ability to maintain current growth.
After the stress of drought has settled in, a tree may resort to something referred to as a “stress crop.” Instead of putting water and energy to use for growth of needles and trunk girth, they put everything into their future offspring. They make more seed cones.
I imagine a mother, starving and barely standing, throwing every last ration she has to her children in hopes that her sacrifice will amount to some sort of future for them. I imagine folks buckling down and creating something to be remembered by. Sending extra seeds of themselves and finally sharing their passion with the world. Something of their heart, a thing that will live on if they don’t make it through the social injustice, the political climate, the financial state of the country, a pandemic that keeps shifting its needs, rippling into everything.
I see a woman in her kitchen, reading about how to keep a sourdough starter alive and waiting a week to bake her first artisan loaf. She hashtags a post #pandemicbaker. She smiles.
I see children, gathered around their grandmother as she imparts her wisdom of gardening and points out a zucchini ready for harvest. Laughter and joy, standing in a lush green patch of otherwise yellowed and barren land. Seeds being watered and cared for.
I hear a young woman’s voice at the park as she tells a stranger how hard it’s been to take care of her elderly father while working for a wage that barely supports herself. She splashes paint on a canvas and creates YouTube videos of the process after work, in hopes that someone will notice her heart song and maybe the seeds she’s planting will help another soul grow.
As I visit the forests of northeastern Washington, an escape from the scablands where my home sits, I am reminded that even in times of struggle, when we are sure there is nothing left to be done, there is always a seed of hope and beauty we can nurture and send out into the world.
I don’t even know what to call these times we are living in, but I imagine them to be a time of heavy coning. A time to put every bit of ourselves into the seeds of purpose, change, community, and courage. It’s okay to let go of growing outward when we can produce seeds that will impact the world.