Updated: Oct 20
Seeds hold my prayers. As I listen to the news unfold in Israel and Gaza my heart breaks, the tears flow, and I feel fear for the future of the people trapped by violence on both sides of the decimated and bulldozed fence. I ache for the mothers who lost and will lose their children and the ones who are unsure of the safety of their families. I close my eyes and feel pain for the friends and family far away from their loved ones right now and all of the not knowing…
When times call for prayer I reach for seeds. I have an altar in my workspace that holds two earth goddesses, various representations of the earth’s elements- a special stone, a candle, a small cup of water and usually a feather, and there always seeds. Orca beans for the endangered Orca whales. Ukrainian tomato seeds and Black Russian Fava Beans for the people living in the war zone of Eastern Europe. Today I have added Palestinian Coriander and Black Kabuli Garbanzo Beans for the newest and oldest war on this blessed earth.
Prayer is new ritual in my life. I didn’t come from a family who practiced organized religion. We celebrated the Christian holidays in typical secular fashion. Mostly for me it was about days off from school, gifts, and sweet treats. We gathered with friends to honor the Winter Solstice, which was more unusual 30 years ago, but I wouldn’t say we were any kind of practicing pagan family either. I didn’t grow up praying, and honestly I still don’t know if I’m doing it right, but as I’ve gotten older I’m more game to try.
I used to have the urge to pray and then doubt would take over and I’d stop myself. Who are you praying to? What will change if you do this? Does praying even matter or have we dumbed down our “Hopes and Prayers” so much that it’s not even worth trying?
I don’t have answers to these questions and I still wonder if there’s efficacy in praying at all. But in times like these when no other action makes sense, I sit in front of my altar, light a candle, hold a seed bundle that represents in some way the places and people and I want to send prayers to and close my eyes. Usually I cry. My mind swirls with thoughts as I replay the stories and events unfolding. I find the place in my heart that reaches hearts across oceans and I sink into the feelings that arise.
Holding the seed bundle feels like the most critical piece of this humble act. Seeds are a real and tangible part of this intangible ritual. Seeds hold memory. Seeds represent a past, the present, and a future. They come from a place and a time and a people-or even just one person- who over and over planted, harvested, and kept the cycle going so they could feed their families. This is not so different from why we plant seeds today. Seeds are intertwined with human hands and human life.
Today, as I sit in front of my candle with my eyes closed I hold my seed bundle in both hands. Ten Palestinian Coriander seeds and several Black Kabuli chickpeas. I grew both on the farm and have saved them knowing this region of the world needs our prayers all too often.
The coriander comes from a friend Nate Kleinman of the Experimental Farm Network based in Minnesota and New Jersey. Nate is Jewish and he vocally condemns the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. I see and follow via social media his friendship and meaningful relationships with a seed hero of mine Vivian Sansour of Palestine. She created the Palestinian Seed Library to uplift and recover seeds and foodways of Palestine. I met her once at a seed conference and her words and work in the world impacted me deeply. She does what what I do- but in a war zone. Their friendship and the projects they co create are acts of rebellion against hateful division and unjust government policies. I am grateful for their work and loud voices on these hard questions. It means the world to me to host these seeds and this coriander seed crop. They did not thrive in our cooler soils and wetter climate, but they grew and I sent most of them back to Nate to be offered in his seed catalog. I saved a few for this bundle I now hold.
The Black Kabuli chickpeas have been grown here on the farm several times over the years. I chose them because I love the color black. I love the peaks and valleys and sharp edges on these little beans. I love the way they poke my hands a bit when I hold them. I love the memory I have of pressing them into the soil, tending the feathery leaves as they grow, then harvesting the sweet little pods that hold just two peas each, nestled together like twins. They are smaller than typical beige chickpeas and have done well on the farm. I don’t sell them- they are too precious- but I have several jars saved for a special meal or a needed prayer. Chickpeas, along with many other foods including wheat and barley, originate from what is now known as the Middle East, a biodiversity hotspot on the earth. To me, in my hand this morning, they represented the people and culture of Israel. I don’t know why exactly. I'm making it up. I could have chosen other things- a fig, a date, a piece of wheat, but the Black Kabuli’s caught my eye.
My prayer is that these seeds hold memory of a time when there was peace in what we now call Israel and Palestinian Territory and the Middle East. I pray that they find their way into the hands of people living in peace in the future. I pray that people grow them, cook a meal and sustain their way of life for one more day, a thousand more days. I pray for resolution. I pray the bombs and rockets will Stop. Now. I pray for mystery; for something to happen that we cannot see or understand now but serves as the catalyst for peace. For a future where homes in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank have no need for “safe rooms” because every room is safe. I pray for a future filled with abundant gardens growing delicious foods and herbs and flowers being shared in community at a gathering in the not so distant future where Palestinians and Isralis together tell the stories of this violence as a cautionary tale and vow to never break the peace again.
With my hands full my emotions flow; the rage, the sadness, the confusion, the hopelessness. I find a bit of solace that I can take this action of prayer and not hold any expectation of outcome, only the new feeling of openness in my heart and in my body. I remember to breathe. I remember to be grateful for my breath and for my life. I open my eyes, come back to the room, the candle, the elements, the seeds. I am still here and the war is still there. In some ways nothing changed. All I know and feel is that through the ritual and the seeds I became a tiny drop in the torrent waterfall of grief around the world.