“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Is it really my fault that exploding Witch Hazel seeds sound like bullet shots when they bounce off plate glass windows, or that they decided to leave the relative safety of their seedpods at two in the morning? According to my wife, it is. Of course, said exploding seeds couldn’t have done their pyrotechnics in the kitchen or the living room, where they probably would have gone unnoticed – they just had to blow-up less than two feet from our heads, catapulting both of us to the bedroom floor. After a few minutes of fearful cringing, we decided that he (or she) must have run out of bullets and that it was probably safe to assume the upright (albeit slightly hunched) position. From this point it took me a good half-hour to figure things out, after all there were no bullet holes or police sirens to justify our original assumption – then I stepped on some tiny black seeds laying quite innocently on the carpet. My first reaction was spontaneous, hysterical laughter – the sort of honest to God ‘I’m not going to die’ laugh that just springs forth when menacing premonitions suddenly come to naught. My wife, on the other hand, was not in the best of humour. In fact, she was quite underwhelmed with the biomechanical seed dispersion of Hamamelis virginiana and for some odd reason, was even less impressed with me for leaving the seedpods on the headboard of our bed in the first place. Her reaction was an outright ban of botanical specimens from the bedroom for time immortal. I thought this a bit of an overreaction, given the fact that it wasn’t even my fault to begin with – as the real blame lay with my grandmother.
My grandmother’s house was like a museum, a virtual menagerie of the natural world she had experienced while living in Alaska, the Yukon Territory and northern British Columbia. A brief sampling of her artifacts would include a whale’s eardrum, gold nuggets that she had panned, arrowheads, mammoth tusks, a traditional Indian medicine bag (with bear’s teeth among its many contents), sealskin boots, glass Japanese floats, fossils, opium pipes she had dug-up from abandoned Chinese railway camps, an imperial Russian coin she had found in the Alaskan ice and a box full of old Viewmasters (circa 1940’s-50’s) she had accumulated during her many travels. Even worse, her home was littered with subversive books and periodicals, with the most insidious of these being a fully illustrated manual of insurrection known as National Geographic magazine (she even went so far as to give me a subscription each Christmas). Every summer vacation she would parade her seditious props in front of my then meagre imagination, until I could bear it no longer and she finally turned me to the curious side.
So there you have it. My seeds now sit quarantined in a glass apothecary jar on the livingroom shelf, not far from my favourite photograph of the person who was really responsible for imprisoning them, my Gran. There they sit, two kindred spirits – the seeds that couldn’t stay put and the woman whose sense of curiosity just wouldn’t die…simply because she gave it to me.