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.