Seeds can lay dormant for centuries – even millennia. Patient potential. Waiting.
They sleep, safe in their stored state until the conditions are just right to stir them into life.
Torrential rain wakes some seed. Fire fuels others into life. And sometimes just the kiss of contact with the earth is enough to stir them from their slumber.
Silver seed bed
On my bookshelf is a book dated 1906 that used to belong to my grandfather. Inside its yellowing pages is a paragraph about a silver mine at a place called Laurium in Ancient Greece near the Aegean sea. That rich silver vein was mined for its treasure from about 1000 BC and its wealth built a flotilla of ancient Greek ships and a currency of silver coinage for centuries.
But it was plundered and exhausted until it no longer had anything to give. By about 50 BC it was abandoned and forgotten…………until the 1860s.
Some of the outcast slaggings were then re-smelted and they reluctantly relinquished more silver along with the then valued lead, cadmium and manganese.
When these refuse heaps were removed, a flower emerged from the ground. It was a flower that was unknown to the modern botany of that time. The seeds must have lain dormant for over two millennia since the days of the old mining works. Waiting.
I love this seed story. I love that it is set amongst silver treasure in a landscape that is ancient and rugged. I love that the book I found it in belonged to my grandfather. And I love that it is a true story.
Sleeping seeds have inspired two of my paintings.
One was a watercolour called The Heirloom Seed that I painted about fifteen years ago.
It is a single red bean seed held by a hand, transparent to time.
The fluid echoes of the past swim right through the present to merge with a yet-to-be born future – all on the same page.
The second painting is an oil called The Seed Keeper that I painted in 2011.
Again it’s an open hand – this time huge, and this time holding three red bean seeds.
There's a beam bathing the seeds and they are stirring from their slumbers.
My sense is that our human story is very different from the one we now tell ourselves. I feel we had a global knowledge and understanding of a sophisticated technology that is totally natural and that we are part of.
But something huge happened. There was either a massive mistake or some cosmic cataclysm. The result was that the knowledge disappeared…..for millennia. Over eons we forgot that we ever even had the knowledge.
But the seeds of that knowledge have been held - in quiet places where we wouldn't think to look. Safe from thought. Out of reach. Our most ancient cultures left us memories. They stored them in ways and in places that would endure, and the sacred seeds would awaken when it was time. Some are in stored stone. Some are woven into the fabric of the air. Some are sleeping in our cells.
Time to Plant
And they are starting to stir now. Their treasure is ancient and forgotten, yet fresh and familiar at the same time.
It’s time to plant them in today's fertile awareness.
Just like the unknown flower that bloomed from the silver slag-heap, our long dormant seeds of knowledge may give life to a whole new human story.
The kids know
But of course kids take one look at The Seed Keeper painting and say that it's Jack and the Beanstalk’s three magic seeds!
Same thing really.