Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Faith in a Seed

Friends who used to own boats tell me the best days of a boater’s life is the day he buys it and the day he sells it.

I feel that way about my garden.

Female purple finch. Note the distinctive eyebrow.
Today I put cut down the last of the foliage that turned brown and tattered after this week’s extremely cold nights. The potted plants I took to my enclosed back porch. Moving the pots to the back porch and then inside the house is the last part of a long process that began when I got excited by the sight of the first daffodil and crocus poking their noses through the cold soil in spring.

It was a long, strange growing year - no winter snow, a spring too cold and wet, then a summer too hot and dry before the rains returned and the temperature turned seasonable. I try to keep plants I don’t have to fuss over but inevitably something has to be cut back.

Now, with satisfaction and some relief, I am seeing a light at the end of a long tunnel as I get the garden - and myself - ready for a long winter's rest. As I reset the fence posts I thought of the Robert Frost poem that talked about good fences making good neighbors. I don’t know about my neighbors but I need the fences to keep out the deer. In the back garden, dominated by yew plants, the deer netting will be augmented by burlap once November comes around. The netting makes gardening harder but at least I can enjoy my flowers and shrubs.

Pine siskin (top) and white-breasted nuthatch.
Meanwhile, the feeders are visited by the usual assortment of birds and I can hear others that prefer to stay in the bushes: Carolina wren, white-throated sparrows. Now that winter is coming on I am having some unusual visitors from the north, driven south when the drought hit the trees in Canada -- purple finch and pine siskins.

After the last cutting in my back garden I stood to admire my handiwork.

That's when I saw the weed coming from the seam in the vinyl siding overhead.

Wait. Not a weed. A seedling.

I have found seedlings before, usually oak or elm seedlings that grow when a chipmunk or squirrel buries the nut and then forgets it. I usually pull them up and sometimes plant them elsewhere.

But those are on the ground. Besides coming from an unexpected and inaccessible place, this one was not a tree. It took me a while to realize it was a sunflower, likely from a seed put there by a titmouse or chickadee as part of its winter cache. Who knows when this was “planted?” The week’s recent, excessive rain and milder temperatures sparked the growth.

I admit, my first thought was to pull it out. But I have decided to leave it alone.

This seedling has found a way to thrive despite the odds - winter is coming on, after all - and I figure if it can work so hard to live, the least I can do is leave it alone.

It is inspiring to see such perseverance.

The writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “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 and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Whether it survives or not, this little guy is a reminder that life is too short, and we need all the wonders we can get.

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