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Seed Magic Part II: Tolkein's Twist on Shadows and Maps

“The world has changed,” the woman’s voice is deep at the beginning of the film Fellowship of the Ring.

“I feel it in the earth. I feel it in the-” My memory gaped. Where else does she feel it? I know the end is something about “what once was” and “few remain who remember it”.

I had planned out the continuation of the Seed Magic blog posts in my calendar. May seemed an appropriate gap for part two of this story of land, history and stewardship, one I had meant to continue with the same wizarding world I had started. I longingly read my notes about “magic wands” and how they choose you. I paused in the note on my May calendar. I had felt chosen, or at least, that I had chosen to believe in a kind of magic of steps forward in January after an initial meeting. Then, in February, the follow up with my father had been so enthusiastic. He had poured over the color images of our land from above.

"Make marks. Draw on the map," I requested. "Dream. A magic wand, remember."

I was supposed to pick up a pile of materials from the office. My contact at the Conservation Department and I had exchanged emails over the course of two weeks skipping and jumping through vacations, conferences and whispering of an unseen threat.

I read the final e-mail regarding the exchange in the middle of March from my couch sent to work from home due to the spread of Coronavirus. Sprinkles. Fairy dust. Pollen. Seeds. Real environments and imagined. I had been so encouraged. Everything had gone to plan. I had returned home after the meeting to hear the same magic words in Dad’s voice as if he really believed in their power and my own to wield the government documents that set the spells free.

March. Time passed. Too much time of inaction. Time enough to lose our nerve. Frodo needed danger to chase him out the door. Someone had to come. Words burned in fire to speak. We, my dad and I, simply waited. We must stay home. We did not have the packet of materials upon which to at least write a trail of words. His resolve began to wane.

“You know,” Dad offered. “I’ve been thinking. Might not make sense. Maybe not to do the waterways. They’d have to. I mean, what would they do with the equipment? Got to go to the other side.”

My stomach sank. I could sense the ring on his finger drawn to all the rest. “No. The machinery can pick up their blades.”

April. The spring stayed cold as if a warning. But, to which path? The one that wielded the system or the one that lead underneath its secret? Our conversation circled back.

“Hmm. Don’t know. Might be safer to just do a few pollinator acres.” Dad settled into what he knew.

“No. He said. He said it’s fine.” I feel the veil is closing. It’s pulling him back away from a dream of something else. “You’re caving,” I whined. I walked away from his hesitation.

May. Warmer skies rumbled. Winds gathered. A storm. Two actually. One trailed east. Another tracked west.

“I’ve never seen so much rain. Must be 5 inches!” Dad exclaimed at first in innocent amazement.

When the puddles stopped gathering, we clomped in rubber boots out to the garden. In the distance, the field flowed. The waterways identified from the Conservation Specialist’s maps, became that imagining of themselves, guiding, swirling, moving faster than I could walk. At the edge of the garden, our chins dropped with a separate type of amazement. The ring of power dropped from Dad’s finger. The broccoli plants were inches deep in water.

“I’ve. I’ve never seen.” Amazement turned to fear. There was no looking away.*

“Can we use buckets?” I asked sheepishly. I finally felt the tone I had only heard when he lamented the cold springs defying the open apple blossoms’ pollination. “What if this was your life?”

“No. You’d do more harm than good.” Dad’s fisherman’s cap brim lowered. “But, it’s not good. The water’ll transmit viruses. They won’t like their feet wet.”

Last year, the broccoli had also failed to produce. Sixty gigantic broccoli plants submitted in the uncharacteristic timing of heat.

“Can’t believe it.”

Except, I could. “The world is changed.”

“I’ve never seen.”

And then I knew I had. “Every day of rainy season, in Guatemala.”

“What happens?”

“Landslides.” And sometimes death.

What if this was your life? It is, had been, always been someone’s life.*

There’s a recognition of the indigenous loss. Of the indigenous life. Of lost magic, and its corrupted replacement.

“Can I have two more copies?” Dad held up the color map detailing the 160 acres, their natural rise and fall of true self.


“I want to send them each one. My brothers. So they know. Before this summer.”

“If we’re together this summer.” It seemed that might actually take more than the kind of magic that seeds held. “The world has changed.” The darkness had not only risen, but made itself known.

In the rumble of machinery crawling down the road, I sensed the shadows push against the edge of our map.“Modern science can’t save us.” The sentence reappeared in my memory forged in the flames of Mordor.

Further Reading and Reference:

*No looking away. . .

Klein, Naomi. (2014). This Changes Everything. Simon & Schuster: New York.

*It has been their life and their fight, always. . .

Gillio-Whitaker, Dina. (2019). As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for

Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock. Beacon Press: Boston.

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