This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Alaina Hanchey, is from Facing Aridity by Diana Woodcock, released by Wayfarer Books in 2021.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Outside Longyearbyen, eight hundred miles from the North Pole, scientists, counting and envisioning the cost of past and future disasters—even Syria’s civil war—Aleppo’s seed bank destroyed by bombing 2015— have tucked into a mountainside, ensured in permafrost, ample space for four and a half billion critical crop seeds worldwide. If the worst should happen, this backup collection will safeguard vegetation. Or is it all mere speculation— no place feasible but the hereafter. But how to disentangle ourselves from earthly (Arctic) time and space? Standing in front of the entrance to the doomsday seed vault— something about it putting a halt to doubt—I began envisioning what the seeds are all about. Was it too late to practice faith? Dalal from Kuwait had brought seeds from her desert home, assuming she could contribute them right there and then. Tottering on the threshold of before and after, I prayed for faith as small as that biblical mustard seed. Immerse myself, I coaxed, in the hope of seeds, that someday planted, they can reverse the damage. Feeling a thirst for roots, recalling the burning bush— how thorns and thistles are not the earth’s original natural fruit— I wished upon a seed deposited just then in the scat of that snow bunting warbling and hunting insects beside the mountain stream flowing past the global seed vault, toward the sea, under the midnight sun.
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