Faith in a Seed
Henry David Thoreau’s journals take a decisively Darwinian turn in the early 1860’s. His work in those years seems more systematic and less poetic than his Walden Pond years. Thoreau remains lyric in his prose even as he systematically chronicles the movement of the pitch pine—for pages and pages.
In the 1860’s the burning question concerned ‘special creation’ over ‘continuous creation’. There were other burning questions in the 1860’s like slavery and women’s rights, but naturalists like Thoreau devoted themselves to the dispersion of seeds. Painstakingly, Thoreau charted and monitored how seeds blew in the wind, travelled through animal intestines, floated in water to reach the place where they would bear fruit.
In the middle of this forest of information about forests, Thoreau offers this gem, “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” Pitch pines will not grow unless pitch pine seeds have been deposited there. And not just pitch pines. Thoreau charts alder, apple, ash, aspen, aster (those are just the things that begin with A).
We take the science for granted. Of course, things don’t grow without seeds. We would never expect a pitch pine to up and grow without pitch pine seeds. We would never expect strawberries to self-generate and take over a field.
Why, then, would we expect love to grow where no love has been? Or hope? Or compassion? Love, hope, compassion require proper cultivation, too. They simply won’t appear magically.
Outside of my office, two planters stand empty. Someone has tended to the planters at the front of the church—a thankfully so. The two around the back have been left to their own devices. One of them, the one to the south, has sprouted something—not a special creation, but a part of the special, continuous cycle of birth, life, death, and resurrection. The seedling has only risen in the last three days. And just in time.
Like Thoreau, I have great faith in a seed. I care significantly less about pitch pines and alder trees. Convince me that you have a seed of love, a seed of hope, a seed of compassion and I am prepared to expect wonders.
Here is my promise. I am going to tend to this little shoot of…whatever it is. I will water it, weed it, protect it—maybe even give it some better potting soil. I’m going to protect this seedling because it is trying to become something more. Whatever it is, it will be good. I am prepared to expect wonders.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.