/ by Julia Sibley-Jones
Now that the mornings boast that cool, clean air and the robins flock the yard; when at noon my bees are an active cloud churning around their hive; when I can step onto my front porch in the early evening and see Leo roaming high in the Southeast; now it finally feels like Spring. And Spring means seeds.
Late last year I checked out Greenville’s wonderful Seed Library. It is a cooperative venture between the County’s Soil and Water Conservation District and the Library System. Housed at the Berea branch in an old-school card catalogue, the Seed Library offers more than 50 varieties of seeds. With my library card I could select up to 10 packets. I also picked up the helpful Growing Guide and a brochure for the Read, Eat, Grow program which offers “a fresh perspective on food literacy.”
I like that the term literacy has moved beyond mere reading and writing to encompass a broader understanding of knowledge and basic competency in a subject. Literacy implies and imparts character. It suggests that you once were willing to be wrong, to be a beginner, to be vulnerable to a new truth. It suggests humility. Humility is a wonderful by-product of literacy and I yearn for a world with more people steeped in both.
Unfortunately, I’m not in charge of most people in the world, so I’m going with what I have and directing the education of my children, ages 11 and 7. My goal is that they are literate in theater, religious services, team sports, the taste of all vegetables. I want them conversant in French, mathematics and camping. I want them fluent in governance with an allegiance to the common good transcending any political party or platform.
Above all, I want them to be curious. Scratch that. The highest virtue I stress is kindness, but just slightly below that is curiosity.
We used to call someone like this a renaissance man. I’ve always aspired to that, even with the obvious disadvantage of not being a man. A less gendered term is polymath, meaning someone fluent in multiple fields including sciences, technology, the arts, philosophy.
While my fingers strolled among the seed packets, my mind cataloged the harvest of curiosity I desire for my children. I hope they’ll understand plate tectonics and that the universe is expanding. Be able to define syncopation. Give an example of onomatopoeia. Change spark plugs and install a ceiling fan.
My fingers were only at Carrot, but my mind was racing ahead… sew on a button and mix a mean cocktail. Play a decent hand of poker. Demonstrate perspective in drawing. Hold a strong opinion and feel the thrill of conceding a new point of view. Sink a free throw or the eight-ball or a four-foot putt. Be an engaging, intelligent dinner companion to whomever is seated left, right and across.
Tomatillo. Write a dang thank you note. Listen generously, follow an argument, be threatened by neither fame nor fortune. Offer and accept a sincere apology. Or compliment. Anticipate someone else’s needs. Ask good questions. Listen for the thing not said. Never be stingy in giving nor blinded by receiving love.
Zucchini. Grow and cook their own food. That seed I can plant now.
My children will help me plant our Seed Library seeds. Lavender, rosemary and mint to delight the fingers, nose and tongue. Marigolds and sunflowers to delight the eyes; and bee balm to attract the contented buzz of our bee colony. We’ll buy vegetables from local farmers throughout the summer and wheedle some friends to share their hens’ fresh eggs. With luck we’ll enjoy the taste of our neighborhood distilled into amber honey.
Maybe this summer we’ll manage a trip to pick peaches for that delightful rosemary-peach jam I used to make. In the Fall, we’ll pick apples and make apple butter. And while the last batch is simmering in the pressure-cooker I’ll take them outside. We’ll notice the air honing its knife-edge and I’ll point out Pegasus soaring across the vast night sky.