Big Gifts in Small Packages

Home / Big Gifts in Small Packages - October 19, 2010 , by admin

Pat and Ken have returned to their travel trailer in my driveway for the night, and I sit surrounded by what they left behind them – hundreds of packets of potential life. Pat has given me one of her life’s work – her seed collection of over 250 varieties of herb.

Pat connected with me last year and told me of her extensive collection of plants on Saltspring, and that she sold the seed and plants. I was a bit miffed that almost under my nose, someone was having amazing luck with sometimes touchy plants and then growing them out successfully all over her property. I wanted to know how she was doing this, and gahhhhhh …. I can hear the dry howl of a plant keener … I wanted some of those plants! They were on my list.

I immediately made plans to get my anxious mitts on some of that precious gene pool.

It is inevitable that one day, the pharmaceutical industry will find a way to reduce the capacity of community herbalists. It will become more and more important that live plants exist in every community so that individuals can make up their own mind about how they want to address their medical needs, and then to have access to the plant they want. We need many pockets of plantings, and a wide variety of gene pool, and someone has to know where it is.

But time after time, my efforts to get some of Pat’s plant material met with failure. Something was wrong, for sure. There was the hint that major illness had struck, and this seemed to continue through visits via friends as well as through inquiring phone calls. And then Pat called me back herself. She was better, but knew she could not continue handling and saving hundreds of plants a year. Would I like her seed collection?

Naturally, my heart gave a huge leap, and then twisted through various loops of thought. Wow! No more counting my pennies as I dreamed my way through the Richters catalogue. I’d have access to many plants I had never even seen! But … but what a responsibility. There are not many collections of this size in BC. And I was to mother this one. How could I keep all these species alive? Could I afford one more really huge project? Or was this it – my job of the decade? And I knew clearly the work involved. I only save about two dozen types of seed a year, but find the task tedious. Harvesting. Cleaning, labelling and storing, year after year. So I started trying to sell the seed, thinking the money would make it worthwhile, but I sell almost nothing and was ready to give up. It is a labour of love. Now – add a couple hundred more items to save?
As you have figured, I said yes to Pat, honoured to be considered and knowing that somehow I would find a way to grow into this. And tonight she showed up with her husband, Ken, to hand over her decades of work. Pat is still weak from the series of illnesses that plagued her, and she admitted to shedding a few tears as she packed up the seeds. Seeing the many racks of carefully and painstakingly preserved seeds, I can only stand in respect of the many hours spent keeping these plants available to all.

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. But I keep handling packet after packet, feeling all the little pulses of energy. Pondering. Pondering how energy gets passed on and around. How these seeds have persisted and been passed onwards for centuries. How things we love get passed onward and how flow and life just keep skidding and bumping along … right into my house.

I’ll worry about the logistics tomorrow.

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