Clouds and sun

How radish seed changed my life

Can a handful of radish seeds save, or at least change, the world? I think so, especially when they're employed effectively.

When I was a little girl, I had a small garden, a 4-foot-by-3-foot piece of dirt close to the edge of our backyard, near where my great uncle built what he called an incinerator. Today, he would have made it bigger and called it a pizza oven, but then it was used for burning trash and garden waste, not for cooking.

In my little patch, I grew chives, green onions and red radishes, using a kid's-size shovel and rake to prepare the soil and my finger to punch holes in it. Into each hole I carefully dropped a single seed before using my hands to spread the dirt back over the little indentations that held the seeds.

In just a few days, tiny radish leaves would unfurl skyward and before long a curve of red would begin to swell and part the soil. It doesn't take long for a radish seed to become a full grown radish, just 21 days or so.

As I think of it now, I can feel the dirt pressing into my knees as I knelt over my sweet little plants. I tugged at my first radish, wiped off the dirt and nibbled it right there, leaves and all, both radish and I warmed by the spring sun. I was so proud that my efforts had resulted in something so tangible.

When the chive plants grew full, I'd cut off several stalks with a pair of scissors, sprinkle a little salt into the palm of my hand, dip the cut chives in it and nibble them, savoring the combination of salt and green heat.

By summer I'd abandon my little garden, but that's a bit off-topic and simply the result of my life-long preference for shade.

Once cooler weather arrived late in the fall, I'd return to my garden, clean it up and plant more radishes and green onions alongside the thriving chives.

How did this save or even change the world?

It is one of several experiences in my early years that created a visceral connection between me and the land, a connection I've treasured all my life and that informs my work on many levels. I'm no farmer and am not even that good a gardener, but I have deep respect for those who work the land and grow the foods that nourish us and the flowers that please us and nourish bees and other creatures. An intimate connection to nature is absolutely essential to me.

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