The Forgotten Seeds

I work at a job where I interact with students of all ages every day. The idea is to educate about the issues of homelessness and poverty — roots, possible solutions and how to take those first steps toward engaging with people who it’s easy to keep your distance from. The crowds I speak to are diverse, so it can be a trick to uncover some universal values, ones that unite people and move them in the direction of building communities that end homelessness.

I’ve long been a student of stories, and I am pretty convinced that stories are one of the best ways to get us thinking about ourselves, how we think, and what we value. So I recently wrote the following story. I’ve just started using it in schools. This seems like a good place to share it and get some feedback.

There was a girl named Blink who lived by a wall

Where she spent every day with her spade

Because Blink had some plants in a garden by the wall

And she was helping them grow in the shade

By a little wooden fence that they’d made

Blink lived in a land that was tired and bleak

Always rubbing her dust from her eyes

Ah the sun, it was hot, and the land, it was brown

And the soil was all crumbly and dry

In that soil just about everything died

The Great Wall divided the whole land in half

Which wasn’t all that great actually

It went in the south from the cliffs of the ocean

To the north as far as you see

Where it ended, nobody knew really

Now Blink had a friend and her friend’s name was Moeh

In their garden they’d sing and they’d rhyme

And the others could hear them, but they’d mostly ignore them

Because they thought they were wasting their time

And they’d shout, “Hey! You’re wasting your time!”

“Your plants are not pretty! In fact, they are ugly!

“And they don’t even give any food!

“We all think you are crazy, (and a little bit lazy)

“But of course, we don’t mean to be rude.”

No, of course, they didn’t mean to be rude.

They were grumpy and weak from their working and slaving

In huge fields of dusty potatoes

They didn’t want to, but what else can you do

In a wasteland where nothing else grows?

They needed something to eat, and potatoes would grow

But everyone knew all along

That working 12 hours on a potato a day

Will not help you to grow big and strong

And a potato a day? That’s just wrong!!

And you know what was worse? What was worse for their hearts?

Coming over that huge separation

They heard sounds of a party, and laughing and singing

And cheering and great celebration

… it tortured their imagination

“It must be so perfect, it must be like heaven

“Our lives are so boring and small”

And while they were working they all would be dreaming

Of the other side, just beyond the wall

They’d be happy just over that wall

But back to little Blink and her bestest friend Moeh

Still tending their plants in the shade

Some angry wild pigs had run through their garden

They were fixing the mess that was made

Always fixing the messes pigs made

Moeh was scared it would happen again

But she helped out and she didn’t mind

Because Blink was one of those rarest of folks

Who think happiness is easy to find

Those folks are the very best kind!

Moeh liked to be near her, ‘cause she knew of Blink’s secret

Like a special ability

It wasn’t time travel or a magical hammer

She saw beauty where others can’t see

That’s a superpower! Believe you me!

That’s why she kept all those plants they called ugly

And spent so much time in the dirt

So Moeh and Blink, well, they’d rhyme and they’d sing

While they tried to raise plants in a desert

Yeah, they tried to bring life to that desert

But just like the others they’d stop and they’d wonder

At those wild party sounds that they heard

So to drown out the sounds they made a song from a rhyme

That was older than anyone remembered

And it went like this:

“Oh lovity goodness,

“My seeds were forgotten,

“And left at the wall,

“And thought to be rotten”

Yep, that was the rhyme. What it meant, no one knew

But there are many old weird rhymes like that

Like rhymes about dishes and moons and spoons

And dogs that are laughing at cats

You know? I mean really, what’s that?

“You know Moeh,” said Blink, “why it is that I like,

“Or maybe even love that old rhyme?

“I think that it might be about all our plants

“And this garden where we spend all our time!”

“(Please don’t think that I’ve had too much wine…)”

“No, I think so too!” Moeh replied in a rush

“And I think in the rhyme there’s a clue

“That there’s some sort of reason why they can’t be forgotten

“And we have to help them grow too!

“I just know it’s the right thing to do!”

“That’s not the whole rhyme though!” creaked a voice from behind them

“Why only repeat the first half?”

“It’s like treasure hunting with your map all in tatters!”

Said a tiny old man, with a laugh.

The girls, they were startled, but the man wasn’t scary

As he leaned on the fence by the path

‘Cause his smile made more wrinkles

Ah, the best kind of wrinkles!

His face was like fingers when you bath

Since Blink was the bravest she turned round to face him

And asked him, “What else can there be?”

“That rhyme has four lines, and everyone knows it

“I’ve been rhyming it since I was three!”

“No, no, no,no there’s more there,” said he.

“Listen:

“Oh lovity goodness,

“My seeds were forgotten,

“And left at the wall there,

“And thought to be rotten,

“But kindness on kindness

“Six seasons in all,

“Bear fruit and the power to

“See past the wall.”

Now Blink’s heart was bubbling, this sounded like wisdom

This sounded like just what they’d thought!

But there was a problem, “My plants are my babies

“But fruit bearing plants they are not

“We’ve never seen any fruit in this spot.”

The old man was dancing and practically singing!

“But they will if you care and you prune!

“I know it is hard in this dusty, dry place,

“But my children, you give up too soon!

“There’ll be fruit if you shoot for the moon!”

Blink looked round at Mother’s voice calling them home, so

To invite the grandfather along

She turned back to see if he’d join them for lunch

But there he had already gone

“I hope he’ll be back before long.”

Now Mother was nearing, and Mother looked angry,

And Mother, she marched like a soldier

Blink tried to explain about all they’d found out

But she flipped out the more that they told her

“You’ll regret all this junk when you’re older!!”

“Silly rhymes, wasting time, now some creepy old guy

“Disappearing in air with a poof?

After that Blink tuned out, but it was something about,

Bla, bla, bla, bla… while you’re under my roof…

Mom was just weary, and so done with her life

She was just feeling beaten about

And she just wasn’t thinking of her girl, whom she loved

When she grabbed at some plants to pull out!

They ran at Blink’s Mom with a shout!

“No, Mom! Blink and Moeh tried pulling her back,

But already there were plants in the air

And by the time mama saw that she’d gone overboard

There were roots, stems, and leaves everywhere

Blink and Moeh were now close to despair

“What now, Blink?” Moeh whimpered, “The garden is ruined,

(Mom had limped off in a sorrowful daze)

“Blink, Blink, can you hear me?” Moeh feared Blink had lost it,

She just stared silently into space

And her eyes had this crazy-ish gaze

“Oh lovity goodness,

“My seeds were forgotten,

“And left at the wall there,

“And thought to be rotten,

“But kindness on kindness

“Six seasons in all,

“Bear fruit and the power to

“See past the wall.”

“We’ll fix it again. We’ve done it before,

“It’s our job to keep them alive

“The rhyme, the old man… There’s fruit in our future

“’Cause this time we won’t lose our drive!

“These plants need six seasons to thrive!”

“It was there all the time in this ‘playtime kids rhyme’

“But it’s far more than that, now I see

“There’s a key in it all, how to get past this wall

“It’s an ANCIENT PROPHECY!”

She actually thought this, like seriously

Now anyone else would have thought her a nut

But Moeh could see only genius

“Explain to me how, Blink, I don’t quite understand.”

“If we just split the work up between us,

“We can get through the times that are leanest

“Eventually all these plants will become trees

“And then will come various fruit

“That will give us the strength to climb over the wall

“That we can’t get from potatoes and roots!

“Just as sure as the dust on my boots!”

Thus began a great journey of working and planning

That started with only these two

But ideas are like fire, and passion’s like wind

And when the wind hit the fire, it grew

What was once brown turned green and blue

The blue was a river, which through digging and damming

Made a lake now, in the middle of the land

And out from the lake flowed small ditches of water

To a hundred new fields that they’d planned

Blink’s dream was ambitious and grand

And green little plants now growing into trees

Day after day there were more

That side of the wall was a very different place

By the time they’d arrived at year four

There were bushes and forests to explore

Everyone worked so hard because they wanted to now

They’d a dream; a mission to pursue

Sometimes you’d hear laughing and singing and cheering

At the lake when a day’s work was through

And parties. More than a few.

Once Blink found them singing when they should have been working

“Hey! Follow the plan to the letter!

“Sure, the lake and fruit trees we have now are nice,

“But over there — you can hear it! — it’s better!”

Who woulda thought just how mad this would get her

“If you just go on playing we won’t ever get there

“This has to be done by the book

“What am I to do here, you leave me no choice

“I’ll have to give you my disapproving look!”

And she did. And they all felt like schnooks.

The fruit trees were loaded with fruit and they ate it

Everyone got all stronger and buff

But Blink was real quiet and worried a little

As she could see they were not strong enough

Climbing over that wall would be tough

“Moeh, I went to the wall and I tested it out

“But we don’t have the strength or the brawn

“The wall isn’t smooth but there’s not much to cling to

“You’d need super hero strength to hold on

“We’re getting stronger, but it’s taking too long!”

“Yeah, I noticed that too, Blink,” said Moeh, “but I think

“There might be one thing that we missed

“We thought fruit and hard working was all it would take

“But it’s all much more magical than this

“Only magic can save us now, sis…”

“Did you not see the tall tree there next to lake?

“Did you not see it has only one flower?

“No fruit all these years, just one massive white bloom

“When that bloom becomes fruit there’ll be power.”

Moeh continued, but Blink didn’t allow her

“I get what you’re saying! That tree is the ticket!

“It’s some kind of outside help.

“Working and planning can take us so far

“But there’s no way we will do it ourselves

“It’s a sign, as far as I can tell.”

So they worked and they whistled and wondered and waited

For that magical fruit by the lake

Sure enough that blossom was replaced by a fruit

That was bigger than Blink for Pete’s sake

On a branch that was now ready to break

And everyone gathered, ‘cause they knew it was ready

At last the big moment had come

Blink asked them, “Who will eat, and climb over that wall

All we’ve worked for is now almost done!”

As you’ve guessed, Blink’s a dramatic one

Moeh cut the fruit down from the tree in one swing

With a knife that looked more like a sword

And when the huge fruit hit the ground with a thud

It split rather neatly in four

They were singing and rhyming once more!

“Oh lovity goodness,

“My seeds were forgotten,

“And left at the wall there,

“And thought to be rotten,

“But kindness on kindness

“Six seasons in all,

“Bear fruit and the power to

“See past the wall.”

Blink scooped up two handfuls of reddish-orange pulp

And gulped it as fast as she could

Then stepped back to feel the new strength pulsing through her

Just like they knew that it would

Ho huaaaaaagh! It felt good.

Moeh ate it up too and they ran at the wall

First Blink, with Moeh hot on her heels

And with fingertips squeezed in the cracks in the wall

They climbed with a grip just like steel

Still, the pain in their hands was unreal

They were only just six or seven feet up

When it happened, not part of the plan

The pain in Blink’s fingers and hands was too much

She let go, and fell back to the land

But she yelled, “Moeh, go as far as you can!”

Moeh was smaller and lighter than Blink

With a heart that nothing could stop

Though Blink twinged with envy that Moeh would be first

She was praying that she wouldn’t drop

Finally someone would get to the top

So when Moeh started falling Blink couldn’t believe it

“Where’s the pow’r to climb over the wall?”

They kept trying to climb it til fingers were raw

But every climb just ended with a fall

That big fruit was just fruit, and that’s all

Do you know what it’s like when a dream dies?

The thing you gave everything for?

What it’s like to get hit with a knockout punch

And you can’t pull yourself off the floor?

It’s like you can’t breathe anymore

Finally Blink fell away from the wall and collapsed

In the grass on her back on the ground

Moeh lay there beside her staring off into space

Neither one could even make a sound

And only a few others hung around

Moeh lay watching the clouds overhead

Always changing as they glide through the air

“Was the prophecy wrong, Blink? Did we want it so much

“That we saw things that just weren’t there?”

“Oh lovity goodness,

“My seeds were forgotten,

“And left at the wall there,

“And thought to be rotten,

“But kindness on kindness

“Six seasons in all,

“Bear fruit and the power to

“See past the wall.”

Moeh thought she saw something so she called out, “Hey Blink,

“Do you see what I see, in the sky?”

“No Moeh, I can’t see, can you leave me alone now?”

She had, you know, something in her eye.

“No Blink, look, I didn’t see this before

“Look way up at the top of the trees”

They were swaying back and forth near the wall

Every time there was a bit of a breeze

“The trees are much taller, maybe strong enough now,

“If we climb way up in them they’ll bend…”

Blink opened her eyes wide, looked over at Moeh

‘Cause I think you can see what this meant

Get ready for a rapid ascent!

They were soon halfway up two of the tallest trees

Before you could even well, um, Blink!

They climbed Moeh and Moeh and Moeh and Moeh!

Ha get it?!? They’d find that funny I think…

I’m a Dad, I tell jokes that stink

Well, they finally got to the top where they found themselves

Silently staring big eyed

Past the wall at crowds of people in a golden

City on the other side

But what they saw was a bit of a surprise

In the centre of all, a huge stadium

And a man who looked down like a king

At men who fought to the death there below

With thousands of people all cheering

As though it was a wonderful thing

And outside of that, a circus or market

With everyone shouting and yelling

Some leading others around all in chains

As if they were buying and selling

They were laughing and poking and prodding and teasing

Teasing people in cages and pens

Blink could see that the ones who got put in the cages

Were just different than the others around them

They were the folks who didn’t fit in

So there WAS lots of laughter but the worst kind of laughter

Where the smile never gets in your eyes

And there was lots of singing but the worst kind of singing

Just mocking, sarcasm, and lies

Blink and Moeh looked ready to cry

“Not as good right up close as it is from afar, eh!”

Said a voice that was all too familiar

When they looked up and over, hidden up in the trees

Was the old man! Blink cried, “Where’ve you been sir!”

“We had so many questions! If only you’d been there!

“To show us the things that we’d missed!

“We thought the rhyme meant we’d end up over there

“But we never wanted anything like this!”

“I’m sorry the questions you had found no answers,

“I still have so many myself.

“I guess sometimes you learn from the road that you walk

“What you’ll never learn anywhere else.”

“What will happen, to us? And the ones over there?

“Will we one day turn into that? “

“No, Blink, think of all you’ve become and you are

“You’ve chosen a whole other path.”

“They have their own rhymes, incomplete and forgotten

“But one day we’ll all tear this wall down

“One day we’ll remember the best songs for dancing

“And it won’t be like it is now

“But for you, now, just turn around.”

Blink turned to look back on her land where the sun

Had begun to set the big sky on fire

She couldn’t believe it, how different things look

When you’re up just a little bit higher

That quest and and the failure were already forgotten

There was a party, again, at the beach

And they were eating the fruit that rained down from limbs shaken

By kids climbing ‘round in the trees

Who knew it could happen, that dusty old desert,

Had turned into gardens of green

All it took was some magic — The best kind of magic,

That comes while you’re dreaming good dreams

The wall and its secret, they finally saw past it

Just not like they thought that they would

Kindness on kindness from seeds once forgotten

Had brought life where nothing else could

Blink could see now, it was just all so good

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