Did you read the story about the 32,000 year-old seeds that germinated recently? It seems researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow found some ancient plants (silene stenophylla) in a fossilized squirrel burrow in Siberia.
They found the plants buried 125 feet deep in a temperature of -7 Celsius. The researchers coaxed the plants back to life and even got some to bloom (pretty white blossoms with five delicate petals) and to produce viable seeds. These plants are now the oldest multicellular organisms on earth. (The previous record was held by a date palm in Israel grown from a 2,000 year-old seed. I wrote about that seed in my book When the Rain Speaks. I’ll have to rewrite that chapter in the next edition of that book!)
I was fascinated by what the researchers said about the enterprising squirrel who stored those plants. First he (or she) had to dig through the frozen tundra to build its burrow. Then she (or he) lined the burrow with hay. Next the squirrel put some animal fur on top of the hay, thus creating a perfect frozen storage unit. The plants lay dormant for 32,000 years because during that time they never thawed and were never tampered with.
This little story is a symbol of hope to me. First, the story reminds me of the tenacity of life–all kinds of life. Life wants to live–and go on living! And given the right conditions, life flourishes–even if it had been dormant for a long, long time. How important it is for us not to give up on other people, ourselves, and our world. And how vital it is that we help create the conditions where life can flourish–whether in our home, workplace, parish, or local community.
Secondly, the story reminds me that some treasures in life are indeed buried. You have to dig to find them. Jesus knew this. He was good at finding the “treasure” in people–like Peter, Matthew, Zacchaeus, the Roman centurion, the woman at the well. Jesus also gave us several parables about finding buried treasure and selling all to procure it. The story of the ancient seeds urges us to be patient with other people and ourselves. It reminds us, “What’s on the surface is not all there is!”
Have you ever seen life germinate in suprising ways and unexpected places? How do you help create the conditions in your “little corner of the world” so that life may flourish? Do you believe only in what you see on the surface, or are you willing to dig deeper for buried treasure?