Seed Commitment.


I’ve been slowly bringing seeds to Africa for just over a year now. I’ve been stock-piling, preparing, and mostly looking toward the great potential that awaits us. They are incredible seeds that can’t be found here, at least not easily. They are mostly heirlooms, including some unusual varieties. I brought with me seeds from all over the world: Guatemala, India, Thailand, France, Italy, Mexico, America and beyond. For the most part, they are seeds that will hopefully survive and thrive in a tropical environment, but some of our plantings will be purely experimental. Some seeds were purchased from specialty seed companies in the United States. Others were gifted to me by farmers, friends and family. I have several goals with these seeds, the most important being to MULTIPLY that which we’ve started with. My old farmer friend, Wild Bill, once told me, “If you don’t multiply, eventually you’ll die.”

Wild Bill comes from a time and place when, in order for your family to survive, you had to know how to raise your own food. If the cows or chickens or goats got eaten up or died before they had calves or chicks, well…eventually you were left with a whole lot of nothing. The same was true for the vegetable seeds. Neglect to save seeds and you’d be empty handed when it came time to plant the next season. These days, especially in the developed world, we don’t need to multiply anything except hopefully the numbers in our bank accounts. Or so we think.

In some ways, Africa is as old as time itself. Definitely older and, in a lot of ways, less sophisticated than even Wild Bill’s earlier twentieth century American experiences. In rural (and even urban) Uganda, the old ways of doing things still hold true when it comes to surviving in an economy that’s been left shattered by so much corruption, war and disease. Mix these ingredients with over-population and a serious lack of resources, education and social services and, in a very real way, you’ve got an empty-handed mess on your hands.

And so, these seeds aren’t just seeds. They are the potential for life, health, and income. They are food for a lot of people I know and love. Some of whom are dangerously close to a precipice of, literally, starving to death. These seeds aren’t hybrid or GMO. Their ability to multiply isn’t reliant on whether or not a person has the money or ability to buy more from a company whose greed has found a way to control one of the earth’s most precious gifts. In a sea of monocrops, the seeds I’ve carried with me to Africa hold a millennium of diversity.

These seeds play a role in the bigger picture of our survival as a planet, but even more specific to my role in this new journey is that they are the tiny pod-shaped coins that will hopefully make a difference in the lives of people whose names I know and whose children I love. To me, this is personal.

A little over a week ago, we planted our first seeds. It was a deep act of faith. There have been a lot of uncertainties in so many aspects of this work and especially in building a new life here in Uganda. The potential impermanence of it all has, at times, been staggering. One day I realized that God was giving me the opportunity to decide for myself what I want. Did I want to stay and invest myself in this particular property and at this time? He told me that, if I wanted to remain, I had to show Him by planting those precious seeds. Admittedly, I had been holding off. I was afraid that if I planted the seeds, something might go wrong and I wouldn’t see them grow into maturity. If that happened, all that seed collecting, dreaming and planning would somehow become a huge loss. There were a lot of reasons to hold off on planting. And yet, in God’s straightforward invitation to decide for myself, I knew with my whole being that my future was being decided by this one small act of faith. Of course, God knew all along what I would choose. But for the first time since Carl died, I felt myself making a decision from my own personal preference. It was a powerful moment. The sky became brighter when I realized from this new vantage point that what I wanted and what God was doing, were one in the same thing. A seamless, brilliant match. When I surrendered my life to God, I did so fully, completely. And now, here I was standing at the edge of a future in which God was giving me my freedom in the deepest possible ways.

I planted those seeds. And when I did so, I planted my faith firmly in a future that God Himself planned for me before I was even born. Perhaps a million times over, grief will be turned into life. May life be multiplied. May despair be continuously turned into joy. The day I made the decision to plant those seeds is the day that God gave me a freedom like I have never before known. It’s funny how the decision to root myself to this place is exactly the thing that has given me wings.

Thank you, Abba, for letting me find my way by first setting me free. You know my heart. Since the beginning of time…you’ve known. You’ve always, always known.

Palms Up. In Surrender and Praise of a Life Well Lived :: Susan Carol Hauser 1942-2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 9.11.42 AM

For Susan Carol Hauser, my mentor, my teacher, my friend.
In Memory :: a funeral eulogy, read July 25th, 2015 :: by Jessie Marianiello

I first met Susan in 1999 as an English student here at BSU. She was my teacher in so many writing classes that I lost count! She was my undergraduate academic advisor as well as my graduate thesis advisor. She was my creative cohort in many independent academic studies. She supported me through the recent death of my beloved and husband-to-be. She was a kindred braveheart, my greatest writing mentor and also a dear friend. Susan played a very special and important role in my life, but what I know for sure is that this room is filled to the brim with people who have a story of similar depth to tell. These stories weave a brilliant, richly colored tapestry of a life lived well. Our dear Susan, each of us a thread.

Here, today, we take our deepest sorrow and continue that weaving into our own living landscapes. Forever altered by this great and gregarious mountain of a woman who lived boldly, beautifully. A woman who rode the waves of her own personal tragedies with immense grace. A woman who filled her life with an expansive sort of passion that spilled over into everything she touched. Susan, a full-hearted woman, whom we love beyond measure, we grieve her leave-taking from this world and yet we celebrate the brilliant ways she still remains. Dear Susan, even here, with our feet planted firmly to this earth, we feel your smile, your heart now a little bit of all of us.

In 2003 Susan spoke at my wedding. As a gift, she wrote a poem and, although the marriage did not survive, her words most certainly continue to live. Yesterday I dug her poem out from where it was stored. I had not read it in years. What takes my breath away is that Susan’s words touch upon something that is transcendent and pure. It is filled with love and, as though written just for this moment, is made of something circular, that place where life and death hold hands. I’ve taken the liberty of making a few small edits and, this morning, co-wrote this poem with Susan, for Susan.

What is Joined

Atoms join, one to the other,
married into molecules,
still themselves,
but something else.

Molecules join molecules,
one to the other,
keeping faith with themselves,
yet coupled into something else.

Water to water, drop
to drop, each holding
unto its own, yet wedded into
the body water, something else.

Water joins with earth,
river current kissing show,
ocean tide consuming beach,
continents spooning the seas.

Here, today, we say goodbye to Susan
Mother, Grandmother, teacher, friend,
wise, laughing, loving woman.
Palms up
in surrender
our lifelines, small rivers
running together.

This is where the heart
escapes from its ribbed cradle, loosed
into molecules, delicate.
Released in a way
too perfect for this world.

Each of us still ourselves, but something else:
current that kisses the shore;
tide that consumes the beach;
continent that spoons the sea.

Our lifelines, small rivers
running together.
A watershed
a deep ocean.
all of us, in your parting, molecules transformed.

One of my very first memories of Susan is the day she gave our Creative Writing class a photocopied handout of “Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard. Many of her students might remember this essary well. Turns out, that day was a catalyst moment in my life as a writer. The essay, in essence, is about learning, or remembering, how to live. Susan not only knew how to live, she did it well. She “stalk[ed] her calling in a certain skilled and supple way.” She located “the most tender and live spot and plugg[ed] into that pulse.”

In the words of Annie Dillard, “I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.”

Dear Susan, may you be blessed by God as you have blessed us. Our wild, limitless, loving friend, fly high, as high as eagles, in perfect freedom. We love you, Susan. Beyond measure. You are loved.