As the winter moves on, I've amassed a respectable collection of seed packets from a number of different sources, all designated for enhancement of my summer garden. And it occurred to me today that if you are a searcher for faith, whether that search be for God or for strength to prop up your waning conviction that spring will come again, a seed packet is a most marvelous place to start. The writer of Matthew 17:20 was not far off the mark when he wrote "if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move." In like fashion, every gardener knows that within a single seed is hidden all the promises of Eden. If you haven't yet read it, Thoreau's last manuscript, published as "Faith in a Seed," is a good starting place for hungry winter gardeners to ease their worries.
The entire concept of next summer's garden is a leap of faith when viewed from the winter-sterilized Flint Hills. Outside, if the biting cold air is still, nothing moves or breaks the silence. The rusty tones of Little Bluestem break the tan monotony of buffalograss and switchgrass, but not a single bird or animal ventures about. You can find an occasional hawk, motionless on a telephone line or tree, watching in vain for the furtive movement of field mice, but it will be diet by starvation in the frigid air tonight. And when the wind blows it comes suddenly and briskly, shrieking past the houses and over the prairie, relentlessly pushing aside leaf and stem and feather and piling the dry snow into mountains.
But there, in my seed packets, safe in the artificial heat of home, lies the promise of my summer dreams. Small bundles of DNA and starch, cotyledon and seed coat, they await only the touch of warmth and water to initiate the future. All shapes and sizes, without the packages, I have no hope of telling dill from poppy, lima bean from field bean. But somewhere inside, Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherry Brandy' awaits. Will it sprout and survive the inevitable late and unexpected frost? Will the color match the package and match the surrounding plants where it is placed once it begins to bloom? Will the blue corn grow tall or be bent low by a June storm? Will the dill and fennel draw in beneficial insects, as angels to protect my garden against the hordes of chitinous Huns that threaten to steal the summer bounty?
My thrust and plans for garden changes this summer are threefold. Encouraged by wild-eyed organic converts whispering into my ears, I am collecting dill and fennel, daisy and parsley, to provide sustenance and homes for monstrous predators that I hope to enlist on my side of the battle for garden supremacy. I have also been searching far and wide for cosmos and poppies and helianthus and daisies to brighten up an area designed as a wildflower meadow and attract the flittering beauty of butterflies for me to contemplate as summer nears its end. And I'm carefully choosing varieties of edible garden plants, some heirloom and some the newest hybrids, to allow the garden to pay back my labor in sugars and starches and flavors. I am placing my faith in the seeds, enlisting their support to transform my garden once again, as summer rolls towards me.