Seeds- History

Hanson, Thor.  2015.  The Triumph of Seeds.  pg. xix-18 & 55-80.  Basic Books, New York, United States of America.

Yesterday I planted my first indoor vegetable  grow operation. I started off  by planting a pot of tiny carrot (Daucus carota) seeds but I quickly got carried away and now have my table full of enough vegetables to properly have a stir fry or a salad. Some radishes (Raphanus sativus), sunflower (Helianthus), pea (Pisum sativum) and  green pepper (Capsicum annum) with a grow light and. All this effort was inspired by reading The Triumph of Seeds. I hope these seeds triumph my kitchen table.

Seeds can be such simple thing, or so I thought. I always assumed them to be quite boring until my crazy second year botany professor Dr. Lyn Baldwin opened my eyes to their variety and complexity with her near hysteric ravings about the plants and their intricacies. The path of botany was fraught with peril, forcing me to think outside of the box of anthropocentrism and come to accept that there is more than one generation and, moreover, shattering any notion that I had that humans were any sort of advanced or developed sexually. I mean if angiosperms wear people their reproductive organs would be on their forehead, and not only that we would have both penises and vaginas on our foreheads, and not only that but we would have pets that would be used as middle men in a transaction involving the transfer of our gametes for tiny niblets of flesh. It sounds like a perverts sick and twisted fantasy world, but that would be ethnocentric of me, so instead of being turned off by plants like most of my cohort, I was turned on to them and jumped in head first. All this thanks to the exuberantly quirky professor of mine who reminds  me so much of my mother.

Thor Hanson does serves to inspire in much the same way as Lyn, introducing The Triumph of Seeds by describing his struggles in attempting to crack the nut of a particularly stubborn seed he found in the rainforest of Costa Rica, his tale wonderfully shows us how far a mother would go to protect her offspring, seed or baby… although I guess a seed is a baby with a packed lunch and a winter jacket, sent out to be schooled by nature, prepared with just enough food to get a healthy start. -P. 10 and one of Lyn’s lecture. The parallels between Thor and Lyn are nuts, I think its a plant person thing… Thor weaves history with botanical anatomy  and personal anecdotes in a brilliant display of his skill as a writer and storyteller, a skill I would personally love to steal. Things I have learned about seeds from this book, mostly(directly) from the headers on pages xxiii and xxiv, are that seeds nourish, seeds unite, seeds endure, seeds defend and seeds travel. I think that I would like to be like a seed, or a botanist in the jungle fighting off pit vipers with long poking sticks, or at the very least sprout an avocado using tooth picks, a mason jar and the key ingredient to all life, water. The variety and tenacity by which Hanson presents his intimate knowledge of a topic not so well understood to most had me glued to the pages of the book for the extent of the reading and, although we were only assigned a small portion of the book, I wish we were assigned the book in its entirety due to its sheer pleasure. Thor uses imagery quite often to describe his direct experience with ancestral plants such as “the seed ferns trunk looked like lizard skin, scaly, black and orange against the tan surface of the rock.”-p. 58 while in New Mexico looking at an old coal bed, and sets a mood of instinctual parenthood of both plant and animal parents on page 67 when he describes a few gymnosperms  as “finally learning how to cover up” to his instinct to wrapping his son Noah “immediately in a big fluffy towel” because “his little naked body seems so vulnerable”. This, being so obvious to Hansen, gave me a feeling of warmth and reminiscence, bringing me back to when my own father did the same for me.

I found Thor’s the mimicry of Gregor Mendel’s Pea experiment in his Raccoon Shack an excellent way of coupling a history lesson with a famous experiment. Again relaying his own anecdote regarding night shifts on a pea farm and the involvement of his son as his accomplice truly displayed the power of seeds to unite generations,  history and science in action.

– “Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active elaborate technique of inquiry”-p. 53, John Dewy Much like the soul, it does not lie, it unites simple truths with simple needs. If you are hungry, eat, if you care, show it.

 

-Jordan Robinson

 

 

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100 mile diet thoughts

March:

I was feeling quite inspired in the first chapters while MacKinnon was describing the beautiful meal he had over the rotting cabbage in the northwest end of BC, a stones throw away from the Alaskan panhandle. It seemed to be, just to be short, that these were good hearted white people trying to figure out how to live sustainably after a lifetime of being spoiled but had no idea how. They bickered about how to do it and came up with this silly 100-mile diet idea, which turned out to be a very heartwarming. They described their first 100-mile meal which included a detailed breakdown of the distances traveled of each ingredient that worked out to be 43 miles on average.

This description conveyed an intimate connection to the food they were eating that reminded me of my own conversion from being obsessed with the idea of becoming an “independent” man to an absolute acknowledgement of the truly interdependent world we actually live in. For the longest time I believed that the only way for me to get ahead in life was to be able to do things on my own but the more independent I became the less connected to people I became, losing my feeling of belonging and community. I started to lose hope in the world and fell into a state of depression because, although I was making lots of money, I forgot how important it was to belong. This thought comes to mind-its easy to fit in, but it takes work to belong. It was easy to fit in with people who took advantage me but I could never belong, but once I began investing in the relationships in my life it started to feel like family, even if we weren’t related, I started belonging without any obligations other than my presence and doing what I had to do and ended up growing exponentially . Growing a garden is much the same in that the investment in the relationship between me and my plants can give them room to grow and eventually belong in my tummy.

MacKinnon seemed to not have very fond memories with food, I love how he found his actions abstract and absurd, with the intention only to recreate the purity of that cabin meal in the woods and reduce his average meal milage from 1500 to 100 miles. I kept feeling an air of “unposed snootiness” by his language which bitterly reminds me of one of my aunt’s who walks around with the same “greater than thou” even though he outright said he wasn’t one of those typical Vancouverite couples, we all know the “type”, do good for the environment because its cool, not because they actually care empty types… I think cities have a nack for that kind of thing, anyway… it was a lot like the hipsters in constant denial of their hipsteriness. This felt like a man who didn’t know where his roots were and in the end of the chapter quoted edward hoagland who pointed out that “the problem everywhere nowadays turns on how we shall decide to live. Neither the government leaders nor the demographers have been able to supply the answer.”p. 18 “How shall we live?”P.18  I see people with no roots and, based on my discussion with Jenn and Lynn I’ve decided that I need to question the question. Why, if we are such a “progressive” and “advanced” society, don’t we know how to live? In my eyes its comes down to the land, and in my heart the answer is simple. Ask the natives how to live.

As a person brought up more native than half-breed and recently attending the healing our spirits world wide conference in New Zealand, one of the most powerful lessons that I got from it was this little anecdote:

Sure, as indigenous people we have been through the ringer… enduring everything from being exterminated like a pest using biological warfare, cultural and literal genocide, denied our rights as human beings and the list goes on and on and on and on… but in spite of all that, we have our culture, as broken and scattered as it may be, we still have our culture. Colonizers on the other hand don’t have much of a culture to fall back on, no ancient traditions to keep them sane because they killed off their own culture, with an adopted religion that was set on dividing and conquering the world in an insane attempt at homogenized the world they homogenized themselves and became the very thing they fear, terrorists and immigrants. Terrorizing indigenous lands with the “all mighty” dollar and becoming the invaders they so fear. It’s sad really, I pity them for being so divided and ignorant to the beauty of their own ancestry that they, themselves, destroy.

Even though this book came from the voice of a couple of Vancouver yuppies, I respected their ability to tell a story and found its quality excellent.

The rest up till October.

Here are a few lines I liked and my thoughts.

“A farmers market is an act of reconnection.”-p.50  in the context of the backdrop of industrial disconnection from nature and eloquently contrasted by a haul of foods and knowing the farmers by name was such a refreshing notion that it reminded me of when I started shopping at the farmers marked and started getting to know the farmers by name, shaking the hands that picked the beats and gathered the eggs that I would later consume, this book has a real knack for pulling memories from my brain hole. Among the saddest lines in the book for me was on page 57 when Mackinnon mentions that “Fewer and fewer (children and people), however, will have touched one cared for one, watched one give birth, or seen a cow give milk or its life for our consumption.” This made me think of being in superstore the other day and trying to decide on whether to buy organic or conventional (this should be reversed but were in a sad state of affairs right not) milk and my mind flashed to bloody utters and the choice became obvious. The next line that grabbed me was “If grocery shopping were always like this (an adventure of apiary variety), it wouldn’t be a chore” by Ruben on page 60.

sheesh this is getting long

The following stories of the abundance of the pacific northwest was full of vivid imagery that the likes of me have never seen, which brings a sadness to my heart and the overall tone of the month of September was filled with hope and dashed by the fact that species after species are going extinct at increasing rates and that we as a species so easily forget. The affluence of the pacific northwest cultivated and curated by thousands of years of indigenous americans who had an astonishing point of view towards nature. (The sporadic mentioning of the indigenous people throughout the book as if we were extinct was borderline offensive because the last time I looked in the mirror I was still native…) Coming from the point of view that nature was to be nurtured and viewing death as a part of life, rather than life or death being it as live then death was the beauty of the cyclical nature of things. You never know how much someone means to you until they die, maybe we should treat animals like people and grieve their loss as we would a person and hold moments of silence for our 4 legged warriors who gave their lives in the fight against… us.

“The jars were priceless”-p. 118 and so are the stories.

I guess ill stop talking now, that was quite the rant.

thank you for reading

-Jordan

  • Smith, Alisa D, and J B. MacKinnon. The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007. Print.