cover image What We Sow: On the Personal, Ecological, and Cultural Significance of Seeds

What We Sow: On the Personal, Ecological, and Cultural Significance of Seeds

Jennifer Jewell. Timber, $30 (392p) ISBN 978-1-64326-107-2

“What are seeds if not a microcosm of the stages of being that mirror our own lives?” writes Cultivating Place podcaster Jewell (Under Western Skies) in this humdrum outing. Anecdotes from the author’s nature walks around her Northern California home serve as springboards for discussing plants’ reproductive processes, as when she recalls observing that the valley oaks in an unnamed canyon were producing an “unusually large crop” of acorns and explains that jays, deer, and other acorn eaters will alter their migration routes to feast on the seeds. Jewell’s reverence for the natural world comes through on every page—she contends “it’s absolutely miraculous” that iris plants, which “hold a good portion of their nutrients in their below-ground structures” to protect against fire or drought, are as “tenacious, fierce, and resourceful... as their largest kin, the trees.” Elsewhere, Jewell describes seed dispersal mechanisms, how corporate consolidation of seed suppliers has reduced the diversity of available seeds, and the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network’s efforts to supply Native American people with seeds “of cultural importance.” Unfortunately, attempts at profundity come across as hackneyed (“We are all seeds and this planet is our greater landscape”), and the decision to organize the volume around the author’s anecdotes makes the narrative feel haphazard. This doesn’t quite come together. (Sept.)