Mindful Engagement through the Seasons: Seeds
Learning through the Lens of Seeds
In late October, as the deciduous trees release the last of their leaves, New England farm fields, meadows, and highway median strips appear as lifeless patches of summer gone by. For many, morning routines during the school year are hurried moments, choking down toast, cornflakes, or coffee on the way out the door in heroic attempts to get the kids on the bus or dropped off at school while making it to work on time. Once on the road, maybe stuck behind an old farm truck overloaded with bundles of hay or barreling down I-91 towards the upper or lower Pioneer Valley, shades of toast brown and cornflake yellow from breakfast are mimicked in the landscape as it whizzes by.
But are these sections of our landscape really just lifeless patches of brittle brown and bleached-yellow best served covered with a blanket of white snow? We watch these spaces awaken in the spring with emerging verdant shoots and leaves, become a buzz with pollinators in the summer, and release their final piquancy of color in early autumn with a scheme of foliage in which New England is so famous. This time of the year, the liminal space between foliage and snow, is no different with the amazing gifts nature has to offer. It’s just packaged differently and might require a renewed perspective.
Here is where slowing down and taking the time to observe the late autumn landscape might stir a sense of awe by understanding the staggering potential and rich history held in these liminal spaces in the form of seeds and their remaining pods.
WHERE TO LOOK
Finding a place to slowly observe might be as close as your backyard or a nearby park. Meadows, wildlife sanctuaries, and community gardens are other community-based resources that can spark a multitude of interests through curiosity and inquiry lead by seeds.
Begin with color. Just like our ability to read the early autumn landscape when we take the time to acquaint ourselves with native trees, we can read our meadows and outdoor open spaces by noticing the multiple tones of brown and yellow, including shades of wheat and flax and shadows of sepia and sienna. From the colors, textures emerge, and it’s here where things get pretty interesting. Wildflower and grass stalks hold seed pods and seeds which contain stories that shed light on our cultural heritage while maintaining the potential to significantly impact our future. Learning what a milkweed seed pod looks like, it’s color and texture of seeds, and understanding its importance for pollinators and where it grows best, will tell a story as you scan your landscape. Same is true of cattail as it towers with its fluffy seed heads preferring to have “wet feet” and often found in wetlands and on the banks of ponds.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Other ways of looking for seeds is through the lens of food. Your multigrain toast with a schmear of almond butter, that bowl of cornflakes with a splash of soy milk, and your favorite cup of joe are all examples of how seeds are a part of most meal. Wheat, nuts, corn, beans, even coffee and chocolate, are all seeds and they have had a significant social impact (think coffee shops, chocolate birthday cake, movie popcorn). You can see their influence along roadside stands at the end of the summer, and with family recipes passed down through generations and featured during holiday meals.
Consider how seeds become a centerpiece to meals or delicious accents to a favorite dish. In the autumn, pumpkin seeds are scooped out of Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns and roasted in the oven, mixed with sweet or savory spices. As we round the corner towards Thanksgiving, bins of whole walnuts, pecans, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and pistachios appear in stores and make their way to bowls on kitchen counters with nutcrackers. When the cold weather gets colder, we might snuggle up on couches with bowls of popped corn and warm cotton blankets for family movie night. Chocolate becomes the star of many holidays, and spaghetti dinners or pancake breakfasts bring the community together to raise funds for local organizations and institutions. These are all examples of how seeds (pumpkin, nuts, corn, cotton, chocolate, wheat, buckwheat) are deeply integrated in annual community events, as well as social and family traditions.
- Go on a seed hunt to gather seeds and pods for an autumn nature table. Be sure to take your camera, sketchbook, magnifying glass, and plant id book with you, and an allowance of time so you can mindfully examine your landscape upclose.
- Make a seed and seed pod bouquet.
- Roast the seeds from your Halloween Jack-O-Lantern. Count how many seeds are in the pumpkin. Can you count how many pumpkins are in a single seed?
- Identify seeds in your Halloween candy loot. [i.e., What seeds (whole or byproduct) are found in an Almond Joy candy bar?*]
- Go on a seed scavenger hunt at the grocery store.
- Visit a seed bank and participate in a seed swap.
- Download our literary guide for the children’s book, A Seed is Sleepy.
- Check out a book from the library:
- The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio
- The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson
- The Book of Seeds by Paul Smith
- Faith in a Seed by Henry David Thoreau
- Read together with your favorite child(ren):
- Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken
- From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
- The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
- A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston
- Seeds by Ken Robbins
CBEdu Resources: Fields, Meadows, Gardens, Parks, Wetlands, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Farm Stands, Native Species, Grocery Stores, Community Meals, Libraries, Pumpkin Patches, Seed Banks
Sienna Wildfield, Director of Community-Based Education
Sienna is the founder of Hilltown Families, Inc., serving as Executive Director from 2005-2017. See her TEDx Talk, Supporting Education Through Community Engagement to hear the story behind the vision and mission of Hilltown Families. Supporting the development of Community-Based Education Network (CBEdu Network) affiliates in other communities, Sienna is available as a national consultant and trainer to others wanting to integrate the framework of community-based education into their educational, community development, mindfulness, and sustainable community projects. Sienna lives along the bank of the Westfield River in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains where she is nurturing the emergence of the newest affiliate member of the CBEdu Network, Curly Willow Center. [LinkedIn] email@example.com
(*Answer: Chocolate, Almond, Coconut, Corn, Soybean, Sunflower… all seeds!)
[Photo credits: (c) Sienna Wildfield]