Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NEW ESSAY: "The Parable of the Peach Seed"

The Parable of the Peach Seed
"Waves of Golden Fire" (1999) by Eyvind Earle from
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

Life sometimes teaches you in small, subtle ways.  If you aren’t paying attention you miss the larger lessons. 

I am in the habit of having a piece of fruit in the evenings.  It helps ward off late night cravings.  For some reason my evening impulses run to sweets. My 9 pm plum of is a healthy way to stave off a 2 am ice cream binge.

One evening this August I was eating a peach, and the pit split open.  There, nestled inside, was the seed.  I had never seen a peach seed before; never even considered what might be on the inside of the pit.  It looked like an almond, though I later found out that mistaking it for an almond could be the last mistake I would ever make.  Peach seeds are a rich source of cyanide, apparently.  But I did not know that yet, so I dried it off and carefully set it aside thinking, “What would happen if I planted it?  I’ll find out!”

About a week later I planted the seed.  I got some fresh soil and some fertilizer in a pot.  I planted the seed in the center of the pot, about 4” down, and watered it.  I covered it with plastic wrap and poked a few holes in it, set it in a sunny window to let it do whatever it was going to do. 

Then I actually looked up how you are supposed to plant and care for a peach seed. I won’t say that looking was a mistake, but it was enlightening.  That was when I learned about the seeds and cyanide (don’t handle them too much, if at all, and certainly don’t eat them!).  I also discovered that there were many steps to planting and successfully growing a peach tree, and not one of them resembled what I had done other than the involvement of dirt and water.  Peach trees, it seems, are actually very difficult to grow.

I suppose I could have given up then: taken the pot outside and dumped it, cursed myself for an idiot and vowed never to plant anything again without looking it up first.  The later was certainly a worthy thought, which I have duly noted.  I decided to just leave the pot where it was and see what happened. I let go of my illusions of growing a peach tree, and just let things be.

About two weeks later I decided it was time to clear the pot.  I hadn’t been paying much attention to it, other than to make sure the soil was staying moist.  I pulled back the plastic and threw it in the trash without even looking, picked up the pot and froze.  There in the middle of the pot was a small, green sprout. It was right where I had planted the seed.  There was nothing else sprouting in the pot.

To peach, or not to peach?  More likely a coincidental clover,
but does it really matter?
It’s been several weeks and that sprout is still thriving.  It has grown from two tiny leaves to nine, and is visible from across the room without squinting. I don’t know if it is really a peach or some volunteer that came in with the soil and came up right at the exact place where I planted the seed.  I am not sure that I actually care.  To me, this sprout was a sign – a miracle.  It spoke loudly of something I needed reminding of – a life lesson that I keep trying to fully learn.

Would I be disappointed if it weren’t a peach? Nope.  Do I expect it to grow into a ten foot tall fruit-bearing marvel?  Not really.  The odds are still against it.  But this sprout taught me an important lesson. That lesson - The “Parable of the Peach Seed” - will enrich me as much, if not more, than an actual tree.

I often wait for my ducks to be in a row, or delay beginning something because I think I don’t know enough to start it successfully.  It is tied to a fear of failure, an unwillingness to get messy and make mistakes.  Yet these are the ways by which we learn and grow.  They are just as valid and just as educational as succeeding outright.  We tend to come down hard on failure in our society, as if the only correct way to thrive and grow is to do something new right the first time.  Prima facie is a legal term that we sometimes use in art for a painting created all in one pass.  That is a horrible expectation to place on learning! The peach seed reminded me that I can do everything wrong, and something positive can still come of it. 

So join me, get messy!  Learn and grow unencumbered. Don’t be quite so hung up on what you don’t know, as you are eager to discover what you can learn.

And never forget the water and the fertilizer.


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