Seed, seed, seed

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Our strawberries finally came in. We picked nine last night, and my eldest daughter sat on the kitchen floor afterward, hand to mouth in near frenzy, fruit tinting her fingers red. Last year the sun scorched the leaves in the first weeks after planting; eventually we built a tiny tent to shield them. We saved the plants but saw no fruit. 

Consider for a moment the uncanny design, the mechanism and meaning, the implications and metaphors inherent in fruit.

It’s possible for seeds to disperse without it. There are many other means of seed dissemination: the hundred parachutes flying from dandelion, the seed pods floating gently downstream. Think of how effortlessly the cottonwood tree fills the air with its puffed masses of seed, seed, seed.

These rely, for better or for worse, on blind chance. Wind and water are temperamental carriers. They arrive at will and do as they please.

Fruit, however, is distinctly made to appeal. We animals are predictable in our taste for all things sweet. The animal eats, then chucks or spits or defecates the seeds on the side of the road. Sorry to be graphic, but there you have it.

Animals and fruiting plants climb hand-over-fist into mutual prosperity. The fruit feeds the animal; the animal scatters the seed; both win higher odds at reproduction. Is it any wonder that God crammed Eden full of fruit?

There are plants that cannot reproduce without fruit. A strawberry plant, however, has a choice.

The strawberry, if it’s too hot or too wet, starving or overfed on nutrients, sucked by pests or drained by pathogens, lacking bees or butterflies or some other agent to aid pollination...that’s it, folks: No fruit, no seeds.

Forget fruit, says the strawberry under pressure. Fruit is an extravagance. Fruit requires enormous effort and energy and diverted resources. And if nothing picks it up, it’ll simply fall right near the parent root; a bit of a waste, considering.

Under pressure, a strawberry will breed without seed. Under pressure, it will simply and quietly shoot out a runner, find an anchor point, and belly crawl forward. 

So why fruit? 

The whole appeal of fruit is its far reach. A strawberry's runner may only go so far, but a fruit could travel, in the pocket of a carrier, miles in the course of a single sunny day.

So when the strawberry is healthy, it fruits.

A strawberry, therefore, is not made to crawl through the dust but to reach new territory. 

But I asked you some time ago to consider the metaphor. The fruit wrought of your own hands.

For me, writing is: Seed, seed, seed, and hope that something takes. It seems an impossible business. Each piece I write requires enormous time, effort, energy diverted from other tasks. If no one picks it up, it’ll drop at my own feet: a waste. (On the coffee table at this very moment: another form rejection. How long shall I continue this way?)

A strawberry plant may belly crawl forward in the dust, searching for anchor points, familiar ground to cling to, and sometimes I wish I could skip fruit altogether. Fruit is exhausting. Wouldn’t it be easier? To content myself with a simpler life, to quit this calling, to stop sending missives into a world that won’t miss me, that is everlastingly absorbed in its own handiwork? 

But I am not made to crawl through the dust. And I can’t stop considering it: the landscape outside of my own patch of earth, where my own hard-wrought fruit may land and find soft soil.



  1. I love this metaphor and it's so true. Sometimes it's tempting to leave the fruit for another day, another year, because it is so exhausting to create something new, but so worth it in the end. Beautiful post!

  2. Every summer growing up, I picked strawberries as my job. But I have never thought about strawberries in this way! Thank you for that. I'm struggling a bit with the whole is-it-worth-the-effort part of writing, right now and the answer I keep hearing is "yes, keep working hard". So, that is what I will say to you today!!! Your ability to capture my attention through your words is exquisite. Keep going!

    1. Thank you for such kind words. They really encouraged me today.

  3. So many resonances for ministry, too.

    You have such a gift.

    1. Your words mean a lot to me, Katie. I'm glad you found the other metaphor applicable too.

  4. Love this. Sometimes I feel too tired and stressed too. I'm going to keep the metaphor because I much prefer the juicy fruit to sending out a runner! :) Keep writing - it's worth it!!

  5. I love this! The scientific explanation intertwined with romanticism. Aren't we all grasping for something?

  6. Beautiful metaphor! And I learned so much about strawberries in this post. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Wild strawberries, though minuscule, taste the sweetest. I'm pretty sure that's a metaphor, too ;). Be yourself. Steer your craft. Keep working. It IS worth it!