Seed-Pod Creativity

In Arizona, we are entering the Season of Seeking Shade. Oranges stop growing, figs dry on the branches, birds sit in the tiniest patches of shades, beak open.

Seed pods ready for threshing

Seed pods ready for threshing

But there is another fascinating process that unfolds in the heat. Native trees produce seed pods. Most of them are hard and protective–understandable, soft seeds would wither and dry up in hours.

Nothing rots here; it’s too dry. Leaves that drop, branches that blow down, rot in weeks on the East Coast. Not so here. You’ll find them years later, just where they fell. They will be the bones of trees, bleached and stiff, but not rotting.

In order for seed pods to free the seeds, they need a threshing machine. Well, something to break open the pods so the seeds can drop to the dirt and wait for rain, or birds, or coyotes. Unless those pods break open, the seed can’t put out roots.

The lucky trees are the ones planted close to sidewalks and roads. The pods fall, we stomp or drive over them, the pods are crushed, the seeds released and ready to be washed into a gully by a Monsoon Rain.

I was crunching over pods yesterday, loving the hollow, rattly sound the seeds make in the pods, when I thought how this is creative work. Well, it is like creative work. You have an idea, but it’s not ready to work, to grow, to connect with other ideas. You create an idea-pod, but you hoard it. Nothing happens.

Then you drop it and other people walk over it, kick it aside, roll over it, and suddenly, you can see it in a fresh new light, ready to grow. And that’s when you see that letting it go, not forcing it, was what it took to break out into a project that you can do. You had to let it go to make it work.

—Quinn McDonald is a naturalist for whom everything is grist for the mill.


14 thoughts on “Seed-Pod Creativity

  1. Surprisingly enough, delicious flour can be made from those mesquite pods. Mesquite flavored pancakes, anyone?

    • Well, from the seeds, anyway. I’ve bought mesquite flour, which is low carb and gluten-free, but it needs a powerful rising agent to lift it’s dense little soul. But it is naturally sweet and yes, even yummy!

  2. Another winning analogy couched in artistic, poetic and glowing prose. I have a seed pod full of ideas wanting to sprout and grow but the atmosphere and ecology do not support it right now. Maybe next week.

    • What a fascinating question. Some seed pods are dry, thin, and brittle. They break open when the wind brisks them along the rough ground (mostly ground up granite from when this area was a Volcanic lake, all the way down to Tucson) during the wind bursts that precede Monsoon storms. The tough ones are super interesting. They are eaten by coyotes, who chomp and partially digest them, depositing them in a pile of fertilizer. Others are eaten by larger birds (Harris Hawks, Red-Tail Hawks, woodpeckers, owls). The birds sit in trees and rip off the tough shells, and some of the seeds drop beneath the tree, the best chance of shade and water. Other seeds work through the bird. Birds of prey poop before they take off to fly, so the seed is beneath the tree with some fertilizer. Most trees that grow on their own (in the wild, not planted) grow along arroyos, where water runs during Monsoons. The pods drop, the rains come, the pods get swept along a racing arroyo, which easily peels them, then drops them at a curve or into a shallow place where they take root. It’s a fascinating process. Maybe that was TMI. I can’t help myself.

      • Thank you, Quinn. That is not TMI. It is exactly what I wanted to know. I’m an engineer and can’t help asking the questions, either. Though my questions are nothing nearly as interesting as Malcolm Gladwell’s questions. It’s nice that someone with knowledge is willing to answer.

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