Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Primordial Oomph

or Seeds, Up Close and Personal

As a friend who used to live in Minnesota is fond of saying, "There is no bad weather; there are only bad dressers."  For the most part I agree with her (at least, now that I live in New Mexico I do), but sometimes, despite mittens and hats and woolen scarves and woolen socks and long underwear and lined boots and parkas and knee warmers and layers—well, sometimes it's just nicer to stay indoors.

Combine staying-indoors kind of weather with the pleasant winter task of sorting through old seed packets to get rid of the ones that didn't thrive for two summers in row, the ones that thrived but that I didn't like, and the ones that by now are almost archaeological finds; combine all that, I say, with a really lovely idea for photographing Macros in a Mason Jar by David Perry at Gardening Gone Wild, and you end up with a totally enjoyable winter afternoon spent indoors taking pictures of seeds in jam jars, of course.

Seeds.  In a jam jar.

I am astonished by the results, not so much because of the photographic je-ne-sais-quoi, but because the seeds look so different than I had expected.  (Which now that I think about it, may count as photographic je-ne-sais-quoi.)  Seeing the seeds "writ large" blows me away.  The variations in texture alone range from papery "exoskeletons," pitted craters, and striations to cabbage-like folds to eggshell smoothness.  Colors show a depth and subtlety not visible from a distance.  And the individuality—forget from type to type.  Within each variety of seed, every particular specimen has its own shape, coloring, and texture that remains true to its species while being entirely one of a kind.

Each seed already seems to have a history.  When you think of a seed in part as the end result of a plant's life process, rather than just as the prototype for future generations, it makes sense.

I think what really takes me by surprise is the way seeds leap into life when seen at this scale.  They remind me of pebbles and shells on a seashore, things with an existence and a history in their own right, not just bland nothings destined to disappear underground until they're transformed into something important.  Normally when I think of seeds, I think of what they will become—"this will be a radish."  But seen at this magnitude, seeds just radiate life—not dormant life, but the real thing.  I am less amazed now that something so tiny has the power to turn into something 100 times its size, to put forth roots and leaves, to flower and bear fruit.  The primordial oomph is obvious.

Oh, who am I kidding—it's still amazing.


  1. Very insightful and beautiful!

    Thank you for sharing.


  2. Thanks, Elaine - thanks for stopping by again!

  3. Your seed photos are amazing! And your descriptions of them are even more so.

  4. Thanks, klbrowser - it was really a neat photographic technique. I wasn't too sure about it when I first read about it, but the contest entrants really did some amazing things.

  5. Your post brought me way back in my childhood-my first home where we tended huge gardens. I remember the look and the feel of the seeds in my hands. I loved to run my hands through the seed bags. They are truly beautiful-the color and textures as well as the hope and potential they bring. I enjoyed this, Stacy!

  6. Jan Lyn, my family also had a large garden when I was a child, and the seeds in spring were always such a wonder - for some reason that joy never seems to leave you. :)