The Seed, the Radicle, and the Revolution

(Credit: Aesculus hippocastanum, or horse-chestnut by JJ Harrison, via Wikimedia Commons)

(Credit: Aesculus hippocastanum, or horse-chestnut, by JJ Harrison, via Wikimedia Commons)

Many people are familiar with the “one straw revolution” proposed by Japanese rice farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, but what about the simple, revolutionary powerhouse that is the seed? Seeds have often been referred to metaphorically when discussing revolutions, new movements, new beginnings, social change, spiritual awakenings. It only makes sense that the first thing to emerge from a seed during germination is the embryonic root known as the radicle (pronounced radical). It has been said that it only takes one individual to start a revolution. It only takes one seed to start a forest. The process may be slow, but the potential is there.

A tiny seed finds its way into a small crack in the sidewalk. The radical emerges. Before you know it, a plant strong enough to push apart two concrete slabs has grown. A radical radical pushes headlong through a pile of dirt and much that has collected in a rain gutter on a rooftop. Up sprouts a renegade plant, adamant about making a human-made structure its home. Devastation can come in the form of a seed; ruins can be made of structures that were ignorantly thought of as eternal. Radicals rise up as radicles force themselves downward, rooting in new lives, and readying themselves for battle. Yes, the seed is revolutionary.

Words are like seeds, and their influence can cause a social sea change as the message spreads. The Juniper zine is microscopic proof of that. As letters have trickled in to the Juniperbug mailbox, this editor has noticed a thriving (albeit grassroots) social movement as readers have recounted their stories of gardening, biking, and going back to the land. Rusty bikes have been retrieved from dusty storage areas, tuned up and taken for a ride. Derelict areas of backyard lawn have been turned over, and gardens have sprouted up. The slow life is spreading just as fast as the seeds can germinate, and off we sprint toward ecotopia.

Spring is for sowing seeds and encouraging growth. Love is in the air, and heaven knows that the revolution needs much more of that. Cynicism can be brushed away for a while. Spring cleaning allows us to pull some of our skeletons out of their hiding spots and send them packing. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed while we’re at it. Certainly a seed recognizes the pressure that lies on its tiny self to thrive, flourish and produce. But there is potential in all of us; potential that will not be compromised: neither blacked-out by black hearts nor whited-out by whitewash. The subversive seed and its radical roots will be our mascot. Let’s make our gardens grow. Let’s not rot in the soil, but instead sprout and rise up. Your neighborhood is your seedbed. That’s where the movement starts.

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Dan Murphy is a seasoned zine writer (The Juniper, Elephant Mess) and proponent of the slow life. His long-time passions include bike riding, skateboarding, punk rock, and gardening. His new interests include botany, ecology, wildflowers, and lichens. Dan has a B.S. in horticulture and an M.S. in biology (his thesis was on green roof technology research). He works at the Idaho Botanical Garden in Native Plant Horticulture. Learn more about Dan at http://awkwardbotany.com/.

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