During spring break in 1976, I walked into a storefront in Cannon Beach, Oregon and found a rough-shod array of bins and boxes containing seed pods for sale. The store looked as if it had only just been set-up, and haphazardly. Prices ranged from ten cents to slightly more, and nothing was labeled: no country-of-origin, no plant genus, just the price on a sign taped to each bin.
And being a collector of the odd & curious, I felt as if I'd just stepped into my version of heaven. I was a freshman in college, paying my own way, and felt the budgetary-belt-tightening in a place where I could easily lay down half a week's pay for, well, for dried seed pods.
I think I walked out of there without parting with more than two dollars, and felt extravagant at that.
They remain silent.
Tonight I googled "seed pods for sale", and apart from a site that advertises "dried decor", the web is noticeably absent of dried seed pods. Often I wonder if I really did wander into that storefront, or was there a ripple in the space-time continuum, just long enough for me to slip through into another reality—
I cannot imagine why anyone would invest in such a business, other than to tickle the likes of moi. (And that seems particularly self-serving.) All of which I am certain is that I came out of there with a paper sack of oddities, oddities that have become totems of a life whose primary goal is to sustain curiosity.
At age 19, I was hard-pressed to imagine a 55-year-old self. The prospect of marriage — let alone two marriages — seemed as remote as a day-trip to Mars. Three years later I would spend a summer going broke in Paris, and believed I would return home (to live with my mother!) a new person. I came home, instead, to find that every possible thing was exactly as it was before my departure. I came home to what I viewed as a personal failure to transform.
What I can finally see, now, is that my summer in Paris defined the kind of life I was to lead thereafter, a life not defined by instantaneous change but one defined by the possibilities that only a summer of art and culture abroad can begin to transform. At 19, the perspective from which one views a life is shallow, at best. It's taken me since then to begin to see just how important that three month interval was, and that the seeds of my future had just begun to set forth roots.
There was a time when I was being groomed to enter into the corporate management vortex, and a surprise pregnancy saved me (yet more seed!). I've devoted nearly all of my subsequent working life to employment in the arts. Hardly a path to riches, mind you, but it is indeed a path to a particular kind of joy.
In the end, it hardly matters if anyone else treasures this droll collection of plant matter — may my seed pods complete their own decomposition in the shade of an apple tree, because I know that they will have served my curiosity exceptionally well.