The earth felt cool and damp, and the sun was warm on the church steps, and I was holding a clump of bergamot in my arms. Last Saturday, the Hilltown Seed Savers held a plant swap and exchange and brought me to the center of Cummington.
People came with annuals and herbs, perennials and pollinator plants, from hyssop to young raspberries. They came and went carefully, cheerful and still conscious of space and precautions.
I looked around at the blooming trees and the clapboard houses and thought that I could never have imagined that walking out into the sun on a spring day could feel like a revolution. Standing in the grass, catching part of a conversation about angelica root … just leaving the house feels astonishing.
It was an informal gathering. A friend had told me about it, and we carpooled up together. It’s that kind of event, the kind neighbors pull together and people hear about at the coffee shop. I found myself thinking of stories of contra dancing in the 1960s, when a handful of young musicians in New Hampshire learned the music and held dances, and word would spread through fliers in town halls and people on rotary phones.
The way I heard it, the old traditional dancing had almost faded away. The fiddlers who would play on their porches were becoming sparser, as record players and radios multiplied. But they found people to teach, and the music is still alive and growing.
Seed-saving has that kind of resourcefulness — a willingness to give and take time and attention, and the kind of spirit that can make music out of voices and feet and maybe a few strings. It feels appropriate that the plants I brought were volunteers from my grandmother’s garden, but I hope next year I’ll have my own to share.