Motherhood: Nurturing Seeds

I’ve always liked seeds.  Even as a kid I was fascinated by the idea that an entire tree could somehow fit inside a tiny seed.  Later I learned that the seed doesn’t actually contain the tree, but instead the potential for a tree.  In order to actually have a tree you’d need water, sunlight, nutrients and a whole lot of carbon dioxide – but the seed contains the blueprints necessary for that tree to come into existence.

I’m no expert on motherhood, but not only do I have a wonderful mom – I also happen to be married to the fabulous mother of my three children.  So if you’ll forgive my ramblings on this sacred topic, I’d like to talk a bit about motherhood.

To me, motherhood seems a lot like planting seeds.  You don’t always know how those little nuts are going to turn out, but you hope and pray and do the very best you can to help them grow into the majestic trees you know they can be.

I’m actually going to mention three of my favorite seeds.  The first seed (in the bottom of the photo) is from a Victoria water lily.  You should Google these things because they are pretty amazing.

The leaves of the Victoria water lily can grow 6-8 inches a day and can grow to be over eight feet wide.  Thanks to an amazing web-like structure of air-filled veins the leaves can carry up to 300 pounds of weight.  The leaves are a beautiful green, but if you flip one over you’d find that the undersides are maroon.

When blooming each lily produces a pure white flower the size of a soccer ball.  A chemical reaction inside the flowers causes them to reach temperatures as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient temperature.  This helps the flowers to disperse their scent, which is a mixture of butterscotch and pineapple.

The flower opens at night and closes as morning approaches.  This traps the beetles which pollinate the flowers and allows the lily to coat the beetle in pollen.  When the flower, which has changed to a dark pink color, reopens the following evening the beetle flies off to another flower.

The Victoria water lily reminds me that the world is an amazing place full of surprises.  This is a lesson my mother taught me as a child.  Whether she was watching me walk up and down the beaches of Bear Lake slowly filling a Wonder Bread bag with tiny shells or putting up with the bizarre aquatic experiments my brother and I performed in the wagon in the backyard, my mom always encouraged me to study, appreciate, and view with wonder the world around us.

The next seed (shown in the top left of the photo) is from a Giant Sequoia – the world’s largest living thing.  They can grow to be 300 feet tall and over 50 feet wide.  Because they are so tall they can’t pump water from the soil all the way up the trunks, so they supplement their water intake by harvesting fog using air roots.

Fire isn’t an enemy to the Giant Sequioa.  Their bark can be three feet thick, naturally protecting the tree.  The heat from the fire clears the underbrush and actually causes the Sequioa’s cones to open, dropping the seeds onto the newly cleared ground below.

To me the Giant Sequioa represents love.  It doesn’t appear overnight, but when it grows it is meant to last.  Love doesn’t disappear at the first sign of trouble.  Like many teenagers, I had my fair share of arguments with my mom.  Even if I didn’t agree with her, I knew she loved me.  Her love didn’t come and go based on my behavior, it was truly unconditional.  As a child, as a teenager, and even today this knowledge is priceless.

The last seed (shown in the top right of the photo) comes from a Bristlecone Pine – which can grow to be the oldest non-clonal living thing on the planet.  There are bristlecone pines that are almost 5,000 years old.  Imagine what those trees have seen and all the amazing things they have experienced.

Bristlecone pines have learned not only how to survive, but how to thrive.  They don’t live in a comfortable environment where life is easy.  They only grow high in the mountains where few things can survive.  But they have learned how to cope with icy temperatures, very little water and ferocious storms.  Because they grow slowly their wood is extremely dense.  This helps to protect them from pests and diseases.  They simply will not allow harmful things to penetrate to their core.

My mother taught me how to thrive in spite of trials.  One of the most challenging times in my life came when I was only seven years old.  I was involved in an accident that resulted in some pretty severe brain damage.  [If you’ve ever tried to hold a conversation with me I’m sure the whole brain damage thing explains quite a bit]

It was incredibly difficult for me to relearn how to read and do arithmetic.  The worst part was looking at a math problem and remembering being able to do it in the months prior to the accident, but not being able to remember how.  There were a lot of tears and years of frustration on my part, but through it all my mom was there – patient, kind and always willing to explain things to me time and time again.  It was because of her that I learned that adversity might beat you down over and over again, but it can only break you with your permission.  In the end struggling makes you a stronger and better person.

She taught me that the world will continually barrage you with what it thinks is important in life.  But don’t overly concern yourself with the world.  Remember that all of those things will pass and you will still be standing, firm and unshakeable, at the top of the mountain where nothing stands between you and your Heavenly Father.

Motives & Manganese

In June 1974 billionaire playboy Tony Stark, uhh… I mean Howard Hughes,  launched the Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE).  At 618 feet and 36,000 tons, the ship was a pretty impressive sight.  Reports said it had the capability to pick up 5,000 tons of ore off the ocean floor each day.  And what kind of ore were they looking for – gold, silver, platinum?  Actually they were reportedly looking for manganese.

The story gets stranger.  It turns out that the whole manganese story was an elaborate cover up.  The CIA had invested $800 million (~$3 billion in today’s economy) to commission the HGE.  The plan was to recover a Russian submarine (along with its code books and nuclear warheads) that had sunk and was now sitting on the ocean floor under 16,500 feet of water.

The sub broke apart during the recovery effort and the elaborate plan never succeeded.

It seems to me that people are often more complicated than the most elaborate cover up.  We do things for the strangest reasons.  Sometimes the reasons we give for doing things have bear no resemblance to our actual motives.  And sometimes we ourselves don’t seem to understand our own motives.

I think that’s one of the reasons the Lord commands us to withhold final judgement on others.  We don’t know why people do the things they do.  Our knowledge of any situation is limited as our viewpoint is one-sided at best.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt is difficult, but it’s no more than we expect for ourselves.  When we have a bad day we expect others to be understanding, but when someone snaps at us we often jump to conclusions and assume the worst about the person.  Before I get upset at someone I try to slow down and understand their motives.  Sometimes it helps to count to 25… the atomic number of manganese.