Lessons from Seeds

“Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect miracles.”

A few months ago my physics professor friend M. sent me the above photo in response to a post about those carrot tops that just wouldn't sprout (never did). M. said she felt sad because she had to kill some of her perfectly good seedlings to allow others to grow. That seemed like a good lesson and it stuck with me. Quite a literal example of the saying "some must die so that others may live." It's the kind of thing that comes up a lot in writing---having to cut all kinds of good material that just doesn't fit, so that the rest of the poem or story or essay will work better. And it applies to other things too, like limiting the number of friendships you have, or activities you take part in, or projects you start, so you can focus on the most important ones. A perfect illustration of that quote -- I can never remember who said it -- "Better to do a few things well than a dozen things poorly." Or even more simply, the old adage: less is more. 

I think "lessons from seeds" would be kind of a nice organizing theme for some sort of preschool lesson. Sort of like the rules for running, writing and life I posted here two years ago. Maybe one could do a whole book of these kinds of things. Lessons from one area that you apply to life in general. I think I remember reading one on swimming and life a while back. Let me see if I can find it. Yes, here it is: Swimming Lessons: Life Lessons from the Pool, Diving in to Treading Water

Wally still waters the little strawberry plant that just won't grow, the carrot tops we've finally given up on. We also have plants from my grandmothers, still thriving. And a basil plant now on the porch. Plus we are trying various seeds from fruits and vegetables -- apples, avocados, oranges. I will let you know if anything grows. I will send word, posthaste. In the meantime, here are the lessons. 

1. Take your time.
2. There's a lot of potential stored up inside you.
3. You’ll have a better chance of growing if you separate yourself from the pack.
4. Protect yourself.
5. Don’t be afraid to travel far from home, but once you land, make the best of where you are.
6. Put down roots.
7. Drink water everyday.
8. No matter what happens in life, ask yourself, "Am I growing?" That is the one essential thing.
9.  Use whatever resources you have on hand.
10. Head toward the light.

I want to include M.'s lesson, too, but I realize it's directed to the planter not to  the seed itself. Some must die so that others may live; some parts have to be sacrificed for the good of the whole -- these relate to the aggregate, not the individual. Still, we can easily apply it to our own lives, when surveying any collection. 

I like that it is so clearly a forced decision point, when it comes to seedlings. It may be hard to do, if you don't kill some off, they'll all die. (As Annie Dillard reminds us, "Nature is, above all, profligate.") In our busy lives, the same dynamic is more subtle. We can try to do everything, and the result will be most things done poorly-- that's probably the best-case-scenario. The worst is that plans will all get messed up, the activities will exhaust us, friends will start to get annoyed and grow distant, and we'll miss out on the one thing we want most: time. So we can choose, instead, to simplify, to kill off some seedlings. When it comes to events and activities for kids, we can do this to make their lives more expansive. Keep things little so the world can be big. In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne, M.ED. tells parents to cut down on activities for the sake of their children. Be willing to say "no", he advises, to "protect the space and grace of childhood years."  


  1. Love the connection between the dynamic of using time and seedlings. So clearly true makes it all the more easy to miss.

  2. Thanks - Just realized it illustrates another proverb I've mentioned before on this blog: "Chase two rabbits and you won't catch either one."

  3. Oh, I love your ten lessons! I was coming to say thank you for your kind comments on Educated for Love...but then I fell in love with your writing. Consider yourself followed :) --- Traci

  4. Thank you! Now I'm going to check out Educated for Love again - seems like we have lots of similar ideas

  5. Love this... Lessons from a seed... great!
    Thanks for visiting Xray Vision. I had no way to email you back!



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