What seeds have you planted?

By Carol / May 20, 2013 /

Tulip BrickSweeps of purple hyacinths. Multitudes of candy apple red, neon yellow, and peppermint stripped tulips. Majestic blue and white flag irises. A host of golden daffodils. Like magic, every spring my garden fills with this vast array of flowers and colors.


Recently, I woke in the middle of the night thinking about the flowers that burst into bloom each spring and it popped into my mind, You doofus! You prepared the soil, planted the bulbs, cleaned off debris in the fall. You did much to have the spring garden you love. Yet, as every farmer knows, the crop comes like the gift it is.


Twenty years ago or more, I opened my mind and heart to dreaming. I made a list, writing down all the things I could think of that I wanted to do someday. I remember two things on that list – bike all the trails in Iowa and write a book.


At the time, I knew little of what goes into writing a book, but I assumed, because I was a public relations counselor, that the book would address some aspect of that profession.  Even that seemed an unlikely dream.


Biking all the trails in Iowa was, however, imminently doable. I loved biking and could visualize weekend trips to all corners of the state as I pedaled away the miles.


It amuses me that the idea visualized clearly at the time is one that fell on rocky ground. Other activities became more interesting. I wasn’t willing to commit the time as more and more miles were added to trail maps.


Meanwhile, the idea that was most undefined, the one left to germinate in the dark recesses of my mind, is the one that took root. But, surprise! When the idea poked through to my consciousness, it was not a business book. Rather, I saw signs of a memoir about growing up on a farm in the middle of the country in the middle of the 20th Century. It took work – skill learning, multiple drafts, disappointment, pruning, more effort – to nurture that little sprout into a beautiful book.


And it took something else, something I could never have made happen. The right mentors, the right colleagues, at the right time. And time – time for the demanding work of putting one word after another on a page.


As with a gardener, a writer is always dependent on things outside of her control. How could I have known that writing down those long-ago dreams is like planting seeds. And that decades later, one would push to the surface. And now, only a few years later, another book, a novel set in Iowa during WWI is about to emerge.


In the midst of the flowering beauty of my garden, I bask in the outcome, forgetting what needed to happen for it to happen – seed planted in good soil, time for germination, and a combination of hard work and grace.


Whether one seed germinates, puts down roots and grows is a function of so many things. Moisture, seed vigor, nutrients. Over much a gardener has no control. But most certainly, the seed has to go into the ground.


Planting seeds. That’s what we do. Whether those seeds go into the garden or take root in my mind.  Whether the payoff is in a few weeks or next spring or decades later.


I wonder, sometimes, what else was on the list, but alas, it’s lost. What I have learned to trust, though, is that in this world where there are a million seeds for every plant that grows, so too, there will always be dream seeds I can plant, and then, when conditions are favorable, one will grow. When the season is right.


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  1. Belinda Nicoll on May 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    That’s such a beautiful analogy, Carol. And most encouraging too; sometimes, I feel like I’m sowing seeds … but no blooms. I guess that’s where the trust comes in, and the willingness to give ideas a chance to germinate and bear whatever flowers or fruit are meant to be.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you, Belinda. I know what you mean about sewing seeds but seeing no blooms. In my own case, I think my head thinks one thing and my heart knows another. Increasingly, when head and heart are not on the same page, things get bogged down. I’m learning trust and patience. I have to go to school on that every day!

  2. Kathleen Pooler on May 20, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    What a beautiful and perfect analogy, Carol. Seeds for story are planted everyday and require the right combination of time, effort and basic ingredients to flourish. And as I have found in my own writing process, sometimes walking away for a while and letting it germinate on its own is the best thing we can do.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 21, 2013 at 7:53 am

      I’ve learned many lessons in patience from my prairie and flower gardens. Lessons that apply to my creative writing and to life in general. Things happen in their own time – a time that is not mine to control. Thanks for joining the conversation, Kathleen.

  3. Paulette Mahurin on May 21, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Beautiful post. Beautifully written. Can’t wait to read your book.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 21, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Thank you for commenting, Paulette!

  4. Mary Gottschalk on May 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

    As someone who has been sowing seeds alongside you for eight years, I continue to be awed by your ability to find inspiring metaphors in the smallest details of life. Thanks!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

      You and I are fortunate to have our two quite different perspectives to bring to our writing, Mary. How lucky that we don’t all see things the same way!

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