Seed Pod Creativity

In Arizona, we are in the Season of Seeking Shade. Oranges stop growing, figs that fall from the branches dry to walnut-shell hardness by the end of the day.  Birds sit in the tiniest patches of shades, beak open.

threshing-treeBut there is another fascinating process that unfolds now. 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 will be in the same place years later.  They will be the bones of trees, bleached and stiff, but not rotting.

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

Dish of seedpods

Dish of seedpods

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 to grow.

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 us. You create an idea-pod, but  if you hoard it,  nothing happens.

Then you drop your creative pod and other people walk over it, kick it aside, roll over it, and suddenly, the dry husk that made it tough, but not productive, breaks. 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 has a thing for seedpods, metaphorically and really.

20 thoughts on “Seed Pod Creativity

  1. I’ve been sharing ideas that I’ve been saving with some friends lately . . . they’ve been shifted around, bumped up against other, the earth has been prepared and now I need to decide which ones to plant first so I have a succession of blooms. I’ll be needing you intelligent ear.

  2. Hi Quinn,
    I just came around your blog today (via Christy Sobolewski) and read your blog about bullying and sense of humor. I really feel for you. Though i do not remember having been bullied in my choldhood, it is a issue close to my heart and i do know humiliation and shame.
    I honor your courage and i really hope more people will speak up the way you did. We should not tolerate this behavior and even less encourege it. Shine on!

  3. Love this, Quinn. As usual, the perfect words at the perfect time. All too often, I find that when I start a project I will hold it too tightly. And without giving it a good shake, letting it go, opening it up, I’ll kill it. The idea will stagnate and fester and die. Thanks for the reminder that we need to open the work (and ourselves!) up a bit. Get some air in there. Let ‘er breathe a bit. And then watch everything grow.

    • I do the same thing. It’s like my big blue agave. I watered it but it had yellow leaves. Turns out what was thriving in all that nice damp soil was grubs, and they ate all the root system. My ideas have that happen to them, too.

    • Some get triggered when they become wet. Those are fun–they shoot the seeds pretty good distances. The pods are often eaten by coyotes, birds, ground squirrels, and other mammals. They are very nutritious. They pass through the animal, or the animal cracks the pod and the seeds escape. For the trees far from roads, the pods eventually become brittle from lying in the sun. But this is also the beginning of Monsoon, so the seeds will get washed away and sprout.

  4. Quinn… The mesquite pods can come in handy if you’re a baker. Have you or your husband ever tried baking with mesquite flour? Desert Harvesters is a group in Tucson that has a hammermill machine that transforms those pods into flour. Occasionally they bring their mill to PHX for a milling event. Mesquite flour can also be purchased from Desert SEEDS/SEARCH in Tucson as well. Happy baking!

    • You are wise beyond your years, Deb. I love the Desert SEEDS/SEARCH people, and am a contributor. Mesquite flour (from the seeds, not the pods) is the flour used by native tribes to regulate blood sugar. It’s sweet and dense and yes, I can bake with it. It does need to be mixed with other flour if it needs to rise, but it is a huge help in diabetic cooking. When the Navajo used only mesquite flour, they had no diabetes problem. Now, with the common use of white flour, the vast majority have diabetes.

  5. I LOVE seed pods! I call it the summer bean dump. Every summer I collect them by the handful and draw, paint, and photograph them. They have been the subject of my 5 minute a day drawings for weeks now. I have bouquets of aloe pods. I love the twisted mesquite beans and the screw beans … magical! I’m such a dork, they bring me great joy! So nice to know I’m in good company!

  6. Hi Quinn. I love this metaphor for ideas nestled in with a beautiful description of Summer in Arizona. It gave me pause to both contemplate and appreciate – both hallmarks of mindfulness.

  7. Sorry Quinn but i must protest your word “dirt” as being the substrate that seeds grow in. “Dirt” is what goes into the dustpan after sweeping, or maybe it’s the gossip in the lunchroom. Seeds won’t sprout and grow in either. It would have been so much nicer if you’d used the word “earth”. or “soil” No offence; i love nature and mother earth and don’t like hearing her being referred to as dirt; it just sounds so ,well, dirty.

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