An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 27, 2015
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining
Chichén Itzá ruins, Yucatán, MÉXICO

  THREE LEVELS OF SEED ENCHANTMENT

One morning back around 1963 or 64 when I was in high school, our "Ag" teacher (Agriculture) walked into the classroom carrying a wide but shallow, glass-covered tray divided into many matchbox-size compartments filled with seeds. There were seeds of corn, soybeans and tobacco, which we all knew, plus others like wheat, rye, oats, milo, barley, clover, lespedeza, alfalfa, fescue grass, bluegrass... on and on. The teacher wanted Tommy Sutherland to learn the seeds' names and represent us at the seed identification contest of the FFA's (Future Farmers of America) upcoming state convention, because Tommy had a good memory, as proved by his recent memorization of the entire "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" in "Lit" class. The rest of us were to take a quick look to gain a notion of the many forms a seed can take, then get on with other things.

What the teacher and my classmates hadn't known was that the sight of those seeds with their remarkable shapes, mostly earth-tone colors, sizes, even their names and the thoughts the names conjured up -- had mesmerized me. I was "enchanted" by those seeds, in the sense that something inside me was deeply affected the way certain pieces of music or certain people, or places, unexpectedly and mostly inexplicably demand our attention, and in paying our attention we feel good in a soft, glowing, satisfying and maybe childlike way. Even as I mostly ignored my other classes, I learned the seeds in secret, and in doing so felt enriched. For a long time I walked around glowing with the effects of having the seeds' names inside me, and of being able at any time to look up the plants from which they came, and learn their secrets.

My Second Level of Seed Enchantment has been expressed in these Newsletters, such as in the 2003 essay entitled "On Really Seeing a Seed," still filed at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/p/030817.htm.

Second-level enchantment conceives of seeds as vessels almost like spaceships traveling through space and time. The mission is to convey life-maintaining information from one time and place to another. The information the seeds carry is intricately encoded in terms of nucleotide sequences in the seeds' DNA. The information consists of instructions on how new living organisms are to be constructed from naturally occurring atoms, ions, molecules and compounds in the seeds' immediate environment upon germination.

Thinking of seeds as conveying sacred information from one parent programmed to die after reproducing, to form a new plant that also will die after reproducing, I recall Richard Dawkins' statement that "We animals exist for their {the genes'} preservation and are nothing more than their throwaway survival machines."

This second-level concept is both disturbing and exhilarating. It's disturbing to think that as an entity I am such an ephemeral thing less important than unseen stuff in my cells, but exhilarating because I'm glimpsing a fact of the evolving Universe, and after decades of frustration with traditional religions and philosophies, having this clear vision the teachings of which explain why there can be so much misery along with the majesty in this world... is enchanting.

At age 68, here as the rainy season ends in the Yucatan, I go about with seeds of morning glories and other plants in my pockets, seeds to be planted as this new year gets underway, and I surprise myself by slipping into yet a Third Level of Seed Enchantment.

This third level of enchantment partly arises from thinking about relatively newly known facts about the Universe, at the same time I'm walking around with seeds in my pocket. For, it's known that the subatomic particles called neutrinos can pass through the whole Earth without ever touching a single atom. It's because the touchable stuff of atoms is almost infinitesimally small compared to those particles' fields of influence -- their charges, electromagnetic fields, and other fields I can't imagine. Nearly all -- but not quite all -- of the Earth and everything of it -- including us -- and the rest of the Universe, too, is invisible space occupied by interacting force fields.

What we "see" around us are confabulations in our own minds based on information suggested by the particles of energy called photons bouncing off things' force fields. When we touch something, our invisible force fields are being repelled by the other thing's force fields, causing electronic impulses in our neurons, which our brains interpret as touch. In the Universe, what seems to be interacting things is really interacting energy, electromagnetic fields, and such, with our brains fantasizing about the meanings of the electrical impulses conducted to it by neurons. The brain's fantasies are the world we think we live in.

It's all so desperately impersonal, yet, also, walking around with seeds in my pockets, all these elegant little seeds so prettily and so succinctly and so certainly conveying their invisible but life-giving information through time and space... and with me as the vessel conveying these seeds... how enchanting...