by Hannah Edwards, University of the Pacific Student
I know you’re young, so you might not understand what I’m about to tell you, but I feel like you should know how I reacted when I held you in my hand for the first time. Holding you was something I’d never done before, and it felt strange to see you resting on my palm. I could barely see you, and I began to worry that you were gone because I dropped you. I was lucky, for I hadn’t dropped you; you were just hidden in the grove of my palm, watching as I panicked and tried to find you.
Unfortunately, now was time for me to let you go, to plant you in the home you would remain in for a few days or weeks. After that, however, I need to transfer you to a bigger home; the first one would not be able to contain you or the sibling I planted with you. Don’t be scared, little one, because you will never be alone in the larger estate. Some of your siblings will be accompanying and staying with you for the remainder of your life. The others, however, are being sent somewhere else, for there are too many of you to inhabit the larger home. You see, when you are little, you live close to your siblings, only an inch apart, but when you begin to sprout, and your roots begin to stretch, you cannot handle the nearness of your siblings and fight each other for space. I’ll interfere before this happens and move you 6-8 inches apart, so I don’t have to see you get hurt.
It’s difficult to truly explain the feelings I felt when I held you. I was excited to plant you, scared to drop you, and I wanted to watch you grow. I know this might seem strange, but I know what is inside of you and I know how you are meant to grow. Inside of you, there is a little bud attached to a stem, and when you are nurtured, they will emerge, and you will begin the cycle of becoming a vegetable. It seems impossible that something so vital to every species on earth comes from something as tiny as you, but you don’t think it’s impossible. For you, it’s natural. Your ancestors were introduced into this world in 1874 by D. Landreth & Sons seed company, the same company that in 1872 developed the first steam-powered tractor for plowing fields. Feeding people is what you were made for, and I know that you will grow for me if I give you the correct amount of attention.
I need to be honest for a moment. Before I began the process of planting you, I didn’t want anything to do with you. I didn’t understand your importance, and I thought you would be a nuisance I would need to deal with for the next three months, but now that I have spent some time studying you and other seed varieties, I realize that the complexity behind you and your history is truly incredible. You’re not just a seed that I need to care for; you’re a symbol that carries “memories from different eras and social relations.” You do not simply sprout and grow into something animals eat; you help “represent the taste of…childhood” and “reconnect people and places throughout generations…and across borders” (quotes from Aistara 2014). It’s incredible how influential and powerful you are, and I can now appreciate you for what you are, not for what I imagined you to be.
I’m reaching the end of this letter, and now I must tell you the true reason why I am writing you. You see, while you were my first seed, you will not be my last. There are so many varieties of seeds that I want to grow and experience. You already know about the Slobolt lettuce, since I planted them alongside you, but soon, there will be more. You were the first seed I planted, and that fact will never change, and I will continue to provide you with the correct temperature, moisture, air and light you need to germinate. You will not be forgotten, I promise, but I need you to promise me something. When I plant these seeds, directly into their forever home (for they do not like being transplanted), I need you to breathe and survive, for I do not know what I would do if you left and denied me the sight of you fully grown.
Your Loving Gardener
Work cited: Aistara, Guntra A. “Actually Existing Tomatoes.” Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Antrhopology 69 (2014), Stichting Focaal and Berghahn Books.