Tending to seeds is important, in gardens and in life

Behold a seed.

It’s a marvelous little engine of creation, in whatever form it takes.

Seeds are being planted all over Long Island these days, for the past few weeks actually, with more of them ground-bound in the weeks to come. And the plants they will produce are as varied and wondrous as the seeds themselves.

The dwarf blue kale seed is a tiny black pellet, the arugula smaller still but arrayed in various tints. Spinach looks like a humble pebble. A beet seed is rough, with edges and folds like truncated granola, no two exactly alike. Carrot seeds are tiny slivers of olive green. A mesclun mix is a delightful collection of sizes, shapes, and colors. And the peas, well, the peas look just like peas.

When the planting is finished, the uncertainty begins.

Are the seeds planted at the right depth in the soil? Is the soil the right composition for the seed? Are the nutrients in the soil sufficient and balanced? Is the seed getting enough water? Enough sunlight? Is the soil warm enough?

And we act to try to reduce the uncertainty.

We wait until the spring sun has warmed the soil. We add compost for enrichment. We water in what we hope is the right amount to augment what Mother Nature provides. We weed out competitors for those nutrients. We place mesh over some seed beds to keep out thieves with wings or little feet. And we look for growth. And if it doesn’t take place, or if it occurs at a slower pace than expected, we react. More water, less water, more nutrients, more planting.

The process is a recipe for the rest of life as well. Buffeted as we are now by uncertainty in all shapes and sizes, we would do well to apply the lessons learned in a garden.

Last week’s shooting in a Brooklyn subway has renewed worries about random violence. Georgia is now one of a growing number of states where pretty much anyone could be carrying a concealed weapon, legally.

Inflation creates its own uncertainties, more specific, more immediate, more affecting. So does the pandemic with our worries about still-unexplained and misunderstood elements of the virus’ past and what surely will be its lurking unknowns in the future.

Our politics create uncertainty, as our reflexively warring factions give us little hope that cooperation can occur and advancement can take place, and they leave us fretting that our divisions are bound only to get deeper and wider.

Ukraine spawns other concerns, our initial empathy for its citizens growing each day into a more cosmic wondering about whether Russia’s aggression there signals a more volatile period for the world in general if other autocrats are emboldened to act in similar ways. Even more global is climate change, which sadly marches on and raises questions about where humans can continue to safely live and under what conditions.

Uncertainty can be a beast, gnawing at us from inside. It can lead us to make bad decisions if we give in to it, if we let it rule us, if we react blindly.

But it also can be tamed to serve as a persistent and needed prod, helping us make good decisions by forcing us to assess and reassess, and use new facts to answer old questions, and address our qualms and reduce our risks by calmly evaluating our changing circumstances.

Our lives and our families are seeds. If we tend to them carefully, in all their sizes and shapes, we’ll reap a harvest for all seasons.

Columnist Michael Dobie’s opinions are his own.