Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Seeding time

The plants know.

The lengthening shadows trigger the cilantro, basil, and dill to throw their energies into making seeds for next year, motes of hope, pockets of life that will lie on the hard, cold ground in January. In just days, vibrant green beings fade to oeuvres of ochre.

Every August I collect seeds--some to eat, some to sow next spring, some that will sit in plastic bags, forgotten for a year or two, until I stumble upon them again.

A few, though, will be planted in September by my students, many of whom have never planted anything before. The seedlings will emerge along the window sill and then fade away as the sun slides south toward the solstice.

In an unannounced observation years ago, an administrator walked in on a lesson on seasons. One child held a light, another a globe as she "orbited" the sun, and the students in class made observations about the shadows on the globe, particularly the part that marked our place on the planet.

Yes, the lesson is a classroom cliché, but the kids were engaged, and, for a few moments, some kids grasped how summer and winter can exist simultaneously.

My observer later asked why I was teaching seasons when I was supposed to be teaching biology. I explained (more reasonably than I felt) how all science rests on energy and matter, and that the cycles of sunlight define the boundaries of life in a given patch of earth.

If you view the world in compartments, with life as neatly divided as your browser tabs,  you're going to miss a lot of what's going around you.

And yes, I miss too much of what matters.


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