|Published by Louise Adey Huish on Sat, 9 May 2020 09:20|
Putting in the Seed
You come to fetch me from my work tonight
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea),
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
Ten days ago I planted some nasturtium seeds – quite early for me, as I’m usually lucky to get them in before Pentecost. This is the first time I’ve used seeds from last year’s plants, rather than out of a packet (usually the slugs get to them before I can), and I wasn’t at all sure they’d do what they were meant to, especially as we’ve had such a run of hot, sunny days, with no rain to speak of. Nasturtium seeds look just like the ‘wrinkled pea’ seeds that Robert Frost talks about in this poem, and I too have become the ‘slave to a springtime passion for the earth’, as I’ve waited for my seeds to germinate. It’s been a joyous delight to see the first leaves pushing their way through the soil, and to recognize the ‘sturdy seedling with arched body’ in the fragile stems waiting to unfold, ‘shouldering’ the crumbs of earth out of the way.
At this season when resurrection is taking place all around, I am reminded of what St Paul says towards the end of his first letter to the people of Corinth: ‘But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.’ (1 Cor. 15:35-38)
The potential to become utterly itself is hidden inside every unpromising, wrinkled seed. Every seedling puts out the same two embryonic leaves, but these almost immediately give way to the characteristic ones by which we identify the plant – in the case of my nasturtiums, fan-shaped, unmistakeable. And yet no two nasturtium plants will be completely identical – a handful of seeds sown in the same soil at the same time will produce plants of different heights and sprawls, wildly different splashes of yellow, orange and red. We cannot see the flower in the seed. And we cannot begin to imagine what the resurrection body will look like, except that it will be both utterly human and utterly God-breathed, each of us freed from accidents of birth and misadventure to become more ourselves than we could possibly imagine. How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed, indeed.
A time to talk
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
In my copy of Robert Frost’s poems, this poem is printed on the same page as ‘Putting in the Seed’, and as I glanced through it, it struck me that it reflects something of the experience of this period of lockdown. In our over-crowded, over-busy world, we tend to forget the value of human contact, prioritizing our To Do lists over a few minutes of inconsequential conversation. Perhaps there is also something about Frost and his friend chatting over the stone wall that reminds me of our present ‘socially-distanced’ conversations. Of the many things we shall find we have learned during this strange, distorted spring, I can’t help thinking that one of the most important will be to turn our backs on ‘all the hills we haven’t hoed’, preferring instead to plod up to the road in the interests of a ‘friendly visit’.