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.
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.