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  • Susan Gallagher

Waiting on a Seed


I fell in love with a phrase I heard the other day. Here it is: delicious anticipation.

Doesn’t that one just conjure up images of being a kid on Christmas Eve, or maybe waiting for an order of black tie mousse cake to get to your table at the Olive Garden? Mmm…. Delicious anticipation.

The words were mentioned in a news story on how impatient we tenants of the technological age have become. Researchers at the superfast internet search engine Google say that 2.5 milliseconds is how long most of us are willing to wait for websites to load. Can you believe it! We’re now literally losing patience in the blink of an eye. That’s what the news story said anyway, that modern technology has ruined our ability to wait for things, and so we’re missing out on all that delicious anticipation.

It just so happens I know of a simple little device to cure all the ants in our collective pants. You can get it for free, or very cheap (K-mart sells them by the thousands for just a couple bucks) and it forces you--yes, forces you--to wait weeks, months, or maybe even longer to witness what passes as a genuine miracle.

I’m talking of course, about a seed.

I don’t know why I’m so enamored with growing things from seed, but I’m not alone. A friend of mine recently updated her facebook status as follows: Hello, my name is Carissa, and I’m a seed hoarder.

Hi, Carissa!

A visit to Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello show this Founding Father to have been a real seed-aholic as well. Our third president collected and exchanged countless varieties with friends and fellow seed lovers. He waited (no doubt in supremely delicious anticipation) for Lewis and Clark to return from their westward journeys with descriptions and seed samples of newly-discovered plants.

Part of the attraction to seeds must be in the power of their possibilities. My newly arrived batch of mail-order flower seed has the potential to turn my backyard into a private paradise “full of year-round color”. Never mind that in reality many of these things will never grow to even remotely resemble the picture in the catalog, and the ones that do will likely be eaten by insects or deer. But while they’re rattling around in their individual little packets, I can dream.

Seeds also let you get in on the ground floor of a new life. You’re there to witness the first green shoots struggling to rise up from the soil. If the plant grows to any appreciable age or size, you’re then able to say, “Ah, I knew it when…”

Seeds come in all sizes, from tiny, dust-like orchid seeds weighing one 35-millionth of an ounce, to the world’s largest, the nearly 40 pound seed of a tropical palm known as the coco-de-mer. This “sea coconut” is a native of the Seychelles, a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean, where it’s considered a threatened species.

The coco-de-mer holds another botanical record--that of the longest germination time. Seeds mature inside huge fruits over the course of six to seven years. It takes another two years for the ripened seed to germinate.

How could anyone possibly contain themselves for nearly ten years, while waiting for a seed to mature and sprout? I would explode! My Blue Lake bush beans take only a few days and that’s borderline intolerable. When those first little bean sprouts start pushing up through the soil, right at the moment when the seeds begin realizing their potential, I get all giddy. Welcome to the world, little guys!

So I have to wonder, is there much celebration in the Seychelles when a bit of green coco-de-mer sprout first makes an appearance? There should be some sort of acknowledgement that this new life was nearly a decade in the making, don’t you think?

Normally when presented with a question like this, I’d Google it. I’d wait 2.5 milliseconds for some results and Bam! there’s the answer. But that seems inappropriate under the circumstances. So I did the next best thing. I found an address for the folks in charge of coco-de-mer conservation (okay, okay, I had to use Google for that) and I wrote them a letter with my query. I sent it, along with a small donation, to the Seychelles Island Foundation.

Now there’s nothing left to do except sit back and wait for a reply, in delicious anticipation.


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