It’s time to plant seeds. For those of us in mild-winter climates fall is the best time to plant cool-weather annuals. For those of us in any climate, it can also be an ideal time to plant perennial seeds (they often have cooling or cooling/warming requirements which are naturally met by overwinter germination. Why not have nature do the work instead of fiddling with stratification and the rest?). And it’s a good time to plant wildflower seeds (after all, when does nature do it?).
So I was already tuned into seed when I got my fall letter from the miso company I patronize*, and found an article by Christian Elwell about planting seeds in a way that’s designed to strengthen plant/human communion.
The article describes a Siberian healer (real or imagined), Anastasia, who says that one of the big problems in plant/human communication is that plants no longer know whom they are serving.
Think about it: we grow huge monocrops of plants, plants which are often untouched by human hands, and which get attention only from machines. Our culture thinks of plants sheerly in terms of production.
But every gardener knows that there is far more to plants than that. We know that plants satisfy our souls in some way we may not be able to describe but would be devastated without. Gardeners also tend to be more aware than other human beings that we need plants: for the air we breathe, for the food we eat, the places we live in, the clothes we wear, the medicines we take, and for that valuable soul-sustenance.
What we might not quite be aware of is that plants may also need us. And not just for our CO2.
Humans and plants have been working together for thousands of years. But in the last several decades, humans have been separating themselves from plants more and more. According to Anastasia, plants need the feedback of our being. They need their souls fed by us. When we withdraw our personalities and attention, plants suffer.
One way to heal this lack is to plant seeds imbued with our consciousness. Anastasia recommends a three-part method for doing this. The first step is putting the seeds to be planted under the tongue for nine minutes, to infuse them with the invisible but tangible messages of our bodies.
The second step is to put the seeds in our palms, and breathe on them. Breath has holy meaning in many cultures; in ours, the word “inspire” means to take in breath or spirit. And by the way, seeds breathe, too. Just very very slowly. But that’s how they manage to keep viable for years (sometimes centuries, or even millenia).
The final step to conscious seed-planting is to stand barefoot on the ground where we will be planting the seeds, and hold them to the sky.
If we are planting a large crop (Elwell plants rice), we can just do this with a few of the seeds; they will communicate the messages we’ve given them to the other seeds.
Sound whacky? Maybe. But to me, it sounds like some of the less formal rituals I like to do when I plant, and it sounds worth trying.
Gardening and wandering in the woods has led me to a clear understanding: plants are sentient beings. In fact, I’ll come out of the closet and admit that for me, everything is sentient: I’m an animist. Working on that assumption can completely change your life. In fact, working on that assumption might be just the change our fast-moving produce-produce-produce culture needs so badly.
So, even if you think treating seeds this way is crazy, why not try an experiment, if only to prove that it doesn’t work? Plant some seeds without this attention and some with it. See if you notice a difference in the growing plants, the flowering, and the harvest. Or yourself.
* If you haven’t tried it, South River miso is an entirely different experience than other misos.They make the miso in wooden tubs over wood fires, doing everything the traditional way. At first I wondered why their miso was so much more expensive than others. Then I tried it, and all was revealed: it was the difference between a bottle of table red and a bottle of fine vintage wine. (And no, they aren’t paying me to say this: it’s unsolicited enthusiasm.)