In the Bleakness, a Bright Green Shoot

Seedless oranges, seedless clementines, seedless grapes.  The words are displayed in large letters on the glossy supermarket shelf labels, or squares of brown cardboard on the stalls of street vendors.  Seedless.  As an incentive for buying.  I shrink in horror at this sinister word, with the sense of abomination one gets when seeing something twisted and unnatural.  “I want fruit with seeds,” I say.  People stare at me as though I am something unnatural and twisted.

Seedless fruit is barren.  Like Federico Garcìa Lorca’s Yerma, it carries no hope of bequeathing another life to this world.  Seedless fruit is unnatural.  Like the beautiful miniature roses in flower shops.  I wanted to buy a pot of magenta pink ones for a friend’s new office.  I wanted to wish for her business to grow and bloom, year after year, like the roses on her windowsill.  But the florist told me they are designed to last only a month.  I did not buy them.  I did not want to give my friend a symbol of a death sentence.

In the foreword to her collection of short stories, La Ragazza di Via Maqueda, Dacia Maraini writes about the time she bought herself some beautiful chrysanthemums in a pot, while staying at the University of Middlebury, Vermont.  She looked forward to watching new buds emerge to replace wilting flowers, then more buds after that.  Within a few days, the chrysanthemum plant began to wilt, as though breathing in poisonous air, as though weary of living.  She changed the pot from plastic to earthenware, and added fresh soil.  The plant continued its decline.  Dacia Maraini finally consulted an Agriculture student who explained that these plants were especially designed to last only one week.  So that, after one week, you would have to buy a new one.

Plants and fruits especially designed to die.  Designed. Monsters created to be controlled by humans to ensure steady financial gain.  Robots devised to be entirely dependent on  human programming, deprived of all freedom.  Products of Nature, perversely maimed to prevent them from the holiest of natural rights – the right to give life.

What do environmentalists have to say about this? Why does the Church keep silent?

Many years ago, I saw a photo of prehistoric cave paintings.  Man and Mother Nature, said the archeologists.  It showed Man hunting Mother Nature with a spear.  Then it showed man running in the opposite direction, pursued by Mother Nature armed with the spear.

*   *   *

A couple of months ago, on a whim against a draining feeling of despair, I collected five pips from a lemon I had just squeezed into warm water.  Like drinking sunlight.  I pushed the pips into a small pot of soil, which I placed by my window.  Five pips.  Five hopes.  Four in a round, with one in the centre.  Like a star.  Perhaps one of the pips would give birth.  Every day, I collected a little water in the palm of my hand, and let my hope drip gently onto the soil.  Trying to give it rain.  Every evening, I moved it away from the window, before turning on the radiator.  I held the pot in my hands, and imagined the pips asleep, just beneath the soil surface.  Sleep.  Gather your strength.  You need to be strong for this world.  I fought the temptation to scratch the soil with my finger, to see if anything was happening.  Be patient.  Respect what your brain is too limited to comprehend.  Trust what you cannot see.  Five pips.  At least one of you must have enough life in it to burst through.  Just one.  Just so I know there is hope.

Several weeks went by.


It was the morning of 28th November.  A bright green dot peering through the dark earth, in contrast to the grey sky outside, in defiance of my hopelessness.  There.  I’ll show you.  Look at the effort I’m putting in, pushing through the earth in this bleak winter time, just to pull you out of despair.  By evening, the glossy green head stood confidently above the soil.  I was happy.  So happy.  One of my five pips had made it.  My future lemon tree.  A few days later, just as it sprouted the indisputable shape of leaves, another little green head ventured out of the soil.  Two.  Oh, joy.  Then another…


This morning, when I opened my curtains, another youngling was straightening its slender green body, shaking off the dust.  Bright green and glossy.

Number five.  The one in the centre of the star.

IMG_0632Scribe  Doll

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28 Responses to In the Bleakness, a Bright Green Shoot

  1. Pingback: Trees as Story-Hoarders | Scribe Doll's Musings

  2. seemabmypath says:

    barren fruit does seem to be a contradiction in terms. really enjoyed this post

  3. gardenerat60 says:

    The fruits without seeds are not to be encouraged at all! Very true- they are engineered by monster minded.

    Here , in India, I heard someone say that it is better to eat the vegetables , that have been visited by the worms , since they are the proof that no pesticide has been used. We have a problem of rampant use of pesticides .

    The experience of growing a lemon sapling in adverse conditions, reminded me of my trail with growing Papaya in containers on the terrace. When I had totally given up on them, they all sprouted in unexpected containers and I am still growing them with fruits appearing at various times!


  4. Your essay is lovely and struck several chords with me. In the States we do not have laws that require labeling of GMO-food. A huge debate is raging right now. Most consumers want labeling, which you have in the EU, but of course agribusiness is lobbying hard against labeling. The sad images of plants programmed for early death reminded me so much of the debate and interest around “Real Food,” “Slow Food,” organic food, eating local, and the rest. The images of Man, Mother Nature, and the spear made me smile. When we attack Mother Nature, she definitely has a way of fighting back! I also loved the spirit and hope behind planting 5 lemon seeds. A friend and former neighbor came back last Thurs. to give me 3 plants for which she no longer has room. Perryn’s plants are like her children. She tends them carefully, and I felt that by giving me the plants she was showing me great trust. To reassure her, I showed her the prayer plant she had given me as a “thank you” gift for collecting her mail/post last fall. Once I repotted the plant, it took off and has more than doubled in size. We received our first snowfall of the season on Sunday. Your essay about growing things in the bleak, cold climate resonated with me here in Wisconsin. I have been trying to keep alive a philodendron that my cousin gave our family for my father’s funeral in 2003. Philodendron tend to be quite hardy, but through all the moves I’ve made in the past decade, my plant has been battered but survived. I wish the same for your little lemon trees!

    • scribedoll says:

      In England, I haven’t seen any GM food labels. I just assume that seedless fruit MUST have been manipulated, right?

      A prayer plant. Now that brings back memories. I used to have one in my room in Cambridge, back in the 1980s. I haven’t seen one in the shops for years.

      Thank you for commenting.

  5. What beautiful little lemon trees you have! I love the leaves’ shocking shade of green and how shiny they are. Thank you for sharing your unusual winter greenery. 🙂

  6. denizsezgun says:

    In Turkey, although we have large fields enabling us grow poison free organic food, the villagers have started using chemicals to speed up the growing period. Since we know about this, (we – the ones immigrated from metropols to villages) we have established our own community and collaborated with some field owners in order them to grow “only” natural fruits and vegetables in their “natural” seasons and duration.
    Some are unfortunately invaded by worms however they smell and taste nice. I gave up shopping in the supermarkets…

    If you’re able to grow few tomatoes, onions and simple vegetables in pots, in/around your house, you’ll get addicted in time 🙂

    And of course, it was a beautiful post again. How much I admire and share your feelings and sensitiveness for every tiny piece of our nature 🙂

    Lots of love …

    • scribedoll says:

      What a wonderful thing to do! Natural fruit and vegetables – as someone who has always lived in a city, all I have access to, is supermarket food and not very good quality market food. We do have “Farmers’ Markets” where local producers bring their fruit and vegetables but they are quite expensive. In supermarkets, you often have a choice between normal and “organic” foods but, frankly, in my experience, except for the price, the taste isn’t all that different.

      I would love to be able to grow at least a few of my own herbs and vegetables as soon as I have a home. Unfortunately, at the moment, I live in one room, with no garden.

      Thank you, as ever, for your wonderful comments :–)

  7. susanjcumisky says:

    Hope springs eternal. There are marigolds still open in the frost. Quite magical.

  8. Elisabetta says:

    Sometime ago an old and famous Italian actress told me that when she was a young lady her father said: “the decadence of our world is beginning: with the invention of nylon stocking the silk ones will disappear and we will be obliged to buy new ones instead of repairing them…”
    Lovely post ad deep thoughts, as usual…
    Thanks a lot.

  9. At the Chelsea Physic Garden you will find the most Northerly fruiting Grapefruit tree in the world. She is called Aunt Queenie!

  10. How delightful, the greening. You’ve got the knack 🙂

  11. Well done, getting them to germinate at this time of year! Avocado stones are interesting to grow too. Sue

  12. Anna says:

    Marvellous!! For me, this wonderful post is not only about the five defiant pips of a lemon)), but also about something more which is hard to put into words…. It’s about life, it’s about things that “pull us out of despair” I know you understand me, Katia. What is most important in this post is the following: “…I know there is hope”. Thank you!

  13. I can’t remember whether or not you are still in London now, but apparently even in a colder climate it’s possible to grow some citrus. Now, what if you got some lemons? It could happen!

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