A seed is a conveyance system for information. It is words
taken wing— words written in the language of adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, ancient instructions clasped between
hard covers, everything needed to carry a story to a new place
where it can take root. Long before writers figured it out, seed-bearing plants had found a way to convey to the next generation
wisdom accumulated over millions of years. A samara is wisdom
with ailerons. A dryas seed is a set of instructions with hair as
wild as Einstein’s. A dandelion seed is an epic on a parachute. A
sandbur seed is a poem stuck to a sock. An elm seed is a prayer
book: This way is life. This way is rootedness.
III. a book Is a rIver.
Again and again—in roots, in books, in rivers—this pattern
repeats in nature: small things gather into larger things, which
gather into larger things, which merge into one big thing. It’s as
if the cosmos wanted everything ultimately to come together. In
a book, stories, characters, all the consequences of betrayal and
the possibilities of love converge — on a street corner, maybe, or
an island—and something new is revealed. This is the art of
the book. What had been many things becomes one thing, the
layered geology of the human imagination, cut to bedrock truth.
Iv. a rIver Is onrushIng lIfe.
So what is one to do when a beloved river that once rushed past
mighty cities now trickles from one diesel irrigation pump to another? Or when the glacier at the head of a river slowly retreats
into its mountain cirque and sinks away, and a riverbank that once
was a cottonwood swale sweet with birdsong is now only a cli=
of broken concrete along a darkly muttering river? Last spring, I
was lying on my back under a riverside tree, watching elm seeds
tack downwind to make landfall on my face, and I thought, this is