The Seed Library
I am standing in front of the old, wooden card catalog of the Washougal Library and am reminded of the card catalogs of my past. The first was in my elementary school library where we learned how to look up books using the Dewey Decimal System.
I remember the sound the drawers made as I slowly and carefully pulled them out-a quiet creak of wood in a silent library. Then the smell would fill the air. It was the smell of old paper and the typewriter ink the librarian used to carefully catalog the books.
Now, I look up my books on a computer but today I am, once again, standing in front of the card catalog. I pull out the drawer and am surprised that the sound and the smell are still there, even though I am standing in a library 2,455 miles away from the one in my memory. The drawer no longer holds cards listing a multitude of books to be read, instead it holds small packets of seeds.
One of the things I love the most about living in a small town is its quirkiness. There are things in a small town I would never have found in the bright and shiny planned community I lived in before moving to the Pacific Northwest. One of the quirks of this town is its seed library, housed in a card catalog, tucked into the corner of the local library.
The seeds have been donated by community members, true heirloom seeds. Being the romantic I am, I imagine that some of the people I’ve met over my years living here, the ones whose families had small farms here, are donating seeds that their grandmothers planted. Knowing feels like a guarantee that the plants from these seeds hold tiny memories of their own ancestors and know what they need to do to survive in this climate. I feel sure to get a bumper crop if I use these seeds.
The seed catalog is a sign of kindness. Having tried to save seeds myself, I know it can sometimes be a tricky process. Tomato seeds, for instance, take a bit of work to dry out before they can be stored. And let’s not forget that often one needs to leave part of the harvest behind for the seeds to develop, especially flowers. Imagine the hardship it once was to save some of the harvest in order to ensure you would eat again next year.
ago, I used the seed library to grow calendula, beets, and carrots to dye
embroidery floss I used to create a textile art series that documented my love of
my new home. I also used the plums from my librarian-turned-friend's tree. Who knew a library and a garden could be so deeply tied to one another?
The seeds and the vegetables are reminders of our need to be good to this land and to one another. I think of our bees and how necessary they are to our survival. I even think of the deer and rabbits who often nibble (or destroy) our gardens, eager to sample the bounty. It’s all connected, and a seed library reminds us of that.
I shake my head and am back in the library and I am flipping through the seed packets and dreaming of future gardens that will truly be a testament to a community garden, a combination of seeds, donated by my neighbors, all our gardens becoming one.
Resources for Seed Libraries:
Seed Libraries by Cindy Conner
Now it’s your turn, tell me about your library, your memories of card catalogs, or your garden.
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