The heart of a mighty tree resides in a tiny seed, the mysterious power of seeds pervades every aspect of life. Seeds can be literal, heirloom or GMO. They can be metaphorical seeds of deceit, healing, or justice sewn long ago and ready to sprout anew. Our relationship to planting and reaping is as old as civilization itself. As the adage says, “You will know a tree by the fruit it bears.” and so today we see both the bad and the good seeds flourishing metaphorically AND literally.
The seed has a spirit, but it doesn’t have a voice. We are giving the seeds a voice! — Flordemayo of The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
I am Director of Culture Collective, a non-profit that uses creative media and art with a focus on culture, environment & community health. So I spend a whole lot of time integrating the solutions that exist in natural systems, traditional communities, permaculture, and design so that I can think about ways to spread these ideas with media and art. For me ideas are seeds and inspiration can be contagious.
Yet the wave of corruption, destruction, greed, and deception is often so strong that I find myself battling to pierce the heavy veil of ignorance by engaging in contemporary socio-political issues. Though I think this is a very important thing for all of us to do, it sometimes has me more focused on the bad seeds. I use the bad news as compost for my garden-bed to plant solution-oriented seeds, being mindful of the work that is before us now on the planet. Inspiration is contagious, and I make sure to have a balanced diet of art, natural sanctuary places, and culture to make the stench of the compost a little more bearable as I till the soil.
The GMO battle is particularly interesting because it is at the place where privatization and corporate greed intersects with the most ancient and sacred practices of growing food, saving seeds, cross-pollinating. Cross-pollination is as good in nature as it is with creative ideas, yet it often threatens private interests. We see the battle between open transparent systems and closed secretive agendas playing out all around us.
What are the bad seeds, how do we select what is worth growing in the coming seasons? You can read a comprehensive history of GMO by Woodstock Earth here. A tree doesn’t withhold its fruit from the birds and the worms, nor does the sun decide which flowers to feed its light to. What if economic systems embraced this idea?
Though closed systems are sometimes needed, life flourishes in open systems that are in balance. Seeds carry that wisdom inherently, knowing which way to reach through the soil for sunlight as they burst out of their shell. I think humans also have this inherent wisdom, but we are good at forgetting.
One of the greatest technologies within a seed is decay. A seed must be planted or it will decay so the prospect of hoarding seeds is limited. Too bad money doesn’t work the same way. Giant companies like the dreaded Monsanto know that controlling the worlds food supply by patenting seeds is a route to global domination. Thank goodness for the activists who work tirelessly to inform us, to write ballots and initiatives to battle the giant corporations.
Yet there are forms of activism that take their inspiration directly from nature, directly from the ancestral ways, understanding that there is more to life than dominating markets and filling up bank vaults with money. Permaculture, sustainability initiatives, community supported agriculture (C.S.A), naturopathic medicine, and other movements like these model natural systems. Natural systems have sustained life since the beginning of time. Practices that understand and respect life as an interconnected whole are surely the seeds of a healthy future for all of us.
I’m doing my best to resist my traditional jabs at current socio-political and economic structures that have clearly forgotten this inherent wisdom. However, the list of inspired individuals and organizations who ARE doing it right is endless but let’s look deeper into the wisdom of seeds. The Hopi Natwani Coalition was formed in January 2004, and it represents an affiliation of Hopi organizations and individuals dedicated to preserving Hopi farming traditions, strengthening the local Hopi food system and developing innovative sustainable strategies to promote wellness. I call Hopi the Tibet of The West and if we are going to talk about traditions and practices that have stood the test of time then Hopi is core curriculum.
Natwani literally means “produce” or “vegetables,” but more significantly, it refers to the processes and rituals necessary for the rejuvenation of all life. It is the intact web of obligation and activity involved in the planting, harvesting, processing, hunting and gathering of food. It is physical and spiritual sustenance.
Native Seed Search, based in Tucson Arizona knows and understands this wisdom also. As a nonprofit organization, their mission is to conserve, distribute and document the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. They promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities. They have wonderful programs coming up this winter and spring called Seed School which you can attend in Los Angeles, or in Hampshire College, MA., or at their home in Tucson.
Kenosis Spirit Keepers, a nonprofit that honors and preserves the integrity of indigenous wisdom and sacred cultural practices by providing cross-cultural exchanges, education, and community-building opportunities takes this concept across many realms. I had the honor of developing a cultural exchange program with Director, Carla Woody between Hopi of Arizona and Q’ero of Peru a few years back. Kenosis educational outreach includes wisdom keepers from many indigenous traditions who understand the concept of sustainability from psychological/spiritual, cultural, and practical perspectives.
Learn more about Flordemayos Seed Temple Project. Flordemayo, of The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers (see video below), who is also Director of The Institute of Natural and Traditional Knowledge has been doing some amazing work to preserve heirloom seeds. You might also enjoy learning about Dianna Snow Eagle Henry, author of Whispering Ancestors: The Wisdom of Corn.
So as we set our sites for 2014 we have many practical options for planting seeds in the coming season. On the metaphorical realm we can ask ourselves which seeds are worth planting and which are not. Ideas are seeds, we spread them through our words, through media and art, they sprout in the minds and hearts of our friends and in our community. In 2014 plant seeds of inspiration that enrich your community with ancient wisdom while keeping yourself firmly planted in this modern world of technology and endless possibility!