Responsibility / by Karie Luidens

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Enough abstract philosophizing for now. It’s finally time for seeds! 

Well, it’s still too early to do anything with seeds: if I planted out back at this point nothing would survive the frosts. Late February here is warm enough for my dog and me to bask in the afternoon sun, napping and reading respectively, but it’s still cold enough for nightly freezes and sudden flurries of morning snow. 

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It’s never too early to obtain seeds, though. And last Saturday I had the perfect opportunity when the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County Public Library hosted their fourth annual public seed swap. For a few hours, the library basement welcomed anyone who wanted (me, please!) to browse table after table of seeds, tucked into everything from plastic baggies to paper lunch sacks to professionally printed packets. 

The energy among my fifty or so fellow participants was palpable, even frenetic—couples exclaiming over tomatillo varieties, a trio of elderly women twittering about which flowers  they’d be able to mix and match this year, hands reaching across each other from all directions to scoop up envelopes promising chiles or chives. 

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When I first walked in and that energy seized me I was immediately eager to join the fray, but reading the labels, it hit me: this wasn't so much a sale at the thrift shop as it was adoption day at a shelter. 

That is, the items up for grabs were living beings. Whoever grabbed them was taking responsibility for their lives. 

And the lives of their offspring, and their offspring’s offspring, on and on ad infinitum. The purpose of seed libraries and seed swaps is to keep local heirloom varietals in cultivation year by year, because the year no one tends them and then works to save the next generation of seeds they produce is the year that strain of life goes extinct. 

With this sobering thought, I steadied my hand and my pace. Take only what you need, I reminded myself. Take only what you can commit to caring for fully, from seed to seed.