The Sound of Seed

Wild Sweet Pea

Wild Sweet Pea

I’ve settled on the couch in our warm living room near the gas fireplace, a hot cup of tea beside me along with a fistful of reading.

There’s a sudden POP and I hear a sound like beads dancing on the hardwood floor.

This ghostly sound occurs in our house every November.

Just when the house falls silent and warm, a dramatic POP breaks the quiet.

Seeds begin escaping from their paper-like shells, causing small explosions in our living room.

At the end of summer I collect seeds from our home-grown vegetables, flowers and fruits, and then dry them on top of a large wooden cupboard in a corner of the living room.

I have to stand on a chair to reach the top and tuck paper plates full of seeds in the hollow of the cupboard.

Wild sweet pea seeds are hidden within a casing that looks like a limp green been. As the casings dry atop the cupboard, they slowly twist. With no warning, one final twist will send seeds flying aloft.

I put down my tea and walk over to the floor near the cupboard and find a twisted shell casing and look for the little black seeds.

I find one, two, three seeds and set them aside for spring planting.

Ten seeds so far.

The cupboard holds tomato, pepper, tobacco, melon, pea and cucumber seeds.

New to our collection are heirloom seeds from Osage Country. My relative Leaf gave us corn and squash seeds that were handed down and handed down again.

This summer the corn grew lush and green, and we harvested the ears in early fall.

The corn tasted fresh and mild—neither sweet nor dry—and we imagined how my ancestors felt biting down on the cob.

We saved the last ear for next year. Drab gray, purple and rose-colored kernels are drying next to the pepper and melon seeds.

The Osage squash grew and grew, escaping from a raised bed, taking over the mustard plants and strawberries. It looks like an acorn squash except for blonde skin.

We savored the cooked squash, which turned out to be sweet and delicate.

To be honest, I’m a weekend gardener. When I buy a houseplant I choose one those benefits from neglect.

So it’s always a joy when anything grows under my care, and even more surprising when it thrives.

I like to think of the Native corn and squash the way I think of our tribal folk: strong and resilient.

Blog #9 for Native American Heritage Month


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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