parable of the sower cp 25 

Chapter 25

Create no images of God.

Accept the images

that God has provided.

They are everywhere,

in everything.

God is Change;

Seed to tree,

tree to forest;

Rain to river,

river to sea;

Grubs to bees,

bees to swarm.

From one, many;

from many, one;

Forever uniting, growing, dissolving

forever Changing.

The universe

is God's self-portrait.



We've been arguing all week about whether or

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not we should stay here with the bones and ashes. We've found five skulls-three in what was left of the house and two outside. There were other scattered bones, but not one complete skeleton. Dogs have been at the bones-dogs and cannibals, perhaps. The fire happened long enough ago for weeds to begin to grow in the rubble. Two months ago? Three? Some of the far-flung neighbors might know. Some of the far-flung neighbors might have set the fire.

There was no way to

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be certain, but I assumed that

the bones belonged to Bankole's sister and her family. I think Bankole assumed that too, but he couldn't bring himself to just bury the bones and write off his sister. The day after we got here, he and Harry hiked back to Glory, the nearest small town that we had passed through, to talk to the local cops. They were, or they professed to be, sheriff's deputies. I wonder what you have to do to become a cop. I wonder what a badge is, other

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than a license to steal. What did it used to be to make people Bankole's age want to trust it. I know what the old books say, but still, I wonder.

The deputies all but ignored Bankole's story and his questions. They wrote nothing down, claimed to know nothing. They treated Bankole as though they doubted that he even had a sister, or that he was who he said he was. So many stolen IDs these days. They searched him and took the cash he was carrying. Fees for police

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services, they said. He had been careful to carry only what he thought would be enough to keep them sweet-tempered, but not enough to make them suspicious or more greedy than they already were. The rest-a sizable packet-he left with me. He trusted me enough to do that. His gun he left with Harry who had gone shopping.

Jail for Bankole could have meant being sold into a

period of hard, unpaid labor-slavery. Perhaps if he

had been younger, the deputies might have taken

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his money and arrested him anyway on some trumped-up charge. I had begged him not to go, not to trust any police or government official. It seemed to me such people were no better than gangs with their robbing and slaving.

Bankole agreed with me, yet he insisted on going. "She was my little sister," he said. "I have to try, at least, to find out what happened to her. I need to know who did this. Most of all, I need to know whether any of her children could have

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survived. One or more of those five skulls could have belonged to the arsonists." He stared at the collection of bones. "I have to risk going to the sheriff's office," he continued. "But you don't. I don't want you with me. I don't want them getting any ideas about you, maybe finding out by accident that you're a sharer. I don't want my sister's death to cost you your life or your freedom."

We fought about it. I was afraid for him; he was afraid for me, and we were

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both angrier than we had ever been at each other. I was terrified that he would be killed or arrested, and we'd never find out what happened to him. No one should travel alone in this world.

"Look," he said at last, "you can do some good here

with the group. You'll have one of the four guns left

here, and you know how to survive. You're needed

here. If the cops decide they want me, you won't be

able to do a thing. Worse, if they decide they want you, there'll be

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nothing I can do except take revenge, and be killed for it."

That slowed me down-the thought that I might cause his death instead of backing him up. I didn't quite believe it, but it slowed me down. Harry stepped in then and said he would go. He wanted to anyway. He could buy some things for the group, and he wanted to look for a job. He wanted to earn some money.

"I'll do what I can," he told me just before they left.

"He's not a bad old guy. I'll bring him back to

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They brought each other back, Bankole a few

thousand dollars poorer, and Harry still jobless-

though they did bring back supplies and a few hand

tools. Bankole knew no more than he had when he

left about his sister and her family, but the cops had

said they would come out to investigate the fire and

the bones.

We worried that sooner or later, they might show up.

We're still keeping a lookout for them, and we've

hidden-buried-most of our valuables. We

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want to

bury the bones, but we don't dare. It's bothering

Bankole. Bothering him a lot. I've suggested we hold

a funeral and go ahead and bury the bones. The hell

with the cops. But he says no. Best to give them as

little provocation as possible. If they came, they

would do enough harm with their stealing. Best not

to give them reason to do more.

There's a well with an old-fashioned hand pump under the rubble of an outbuilding. It still works. The solar-powered

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electric pump near the house does not. We couldn't stay here long without a dependable water source. With the well, though, it's hard to leave-hard to walk away from possible sanctuary-in spite of arsonists and cops. Bankole owns this land, free and clear. There's a huge, half ruined garden plus citrus trees full of unripe fruit. We've already been pulling carrots and digging potatoes here. There are plenty of other fruit and nut trees plus wild pines, redwoods, and

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Douglas firs. None of these last were very big. This area was logged sometime before Bankole bought it. Bankole says it was clear-cut back in the 1980s or l990s, but we can make use of the trees that have grown since then, and we can plant more. We can build a shelter, put in a winter garden from the seed I've been carrying and collecting since we left home.

Granted, a lot of it is old seed. I hadn't renewed it as

often as I should have while I was at home. Strange

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that I hadn't. Things kept getting worse and worse at

home, yet I had paid less and less attention to the

pack that was supposed to save my life when the

mob came. There was so much else to worry about-

and I think I was into my own brand of denial, as bad

in its way as Cory's or Joanne's mother's. But all that

feels like ancient history. Now was what we had to worry about. What were we going to do now?

"I don't think we can make it here," Harry said earlier this

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evening as we sat around the campfire. There should be something cheerful about sitting around a campfire with friends and a full stomach. We even had meat tonight fresh meat. Bankole took the rifle and went off by himself for a while. When he came back, he brought three rabbits which Zahra and I skinned, cleaned, and roasted. We also roasted sweet potatoes that we had dug out of the garden. We should have been content. Yet all we were doing was rehashing what had

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become an old argument over the past few days. Perhaps it was the bones and ashes just over the rise that were bothering us. We had camped out of sight of the burned area in the hope of recovering a little peace of mind, but it hadn't helped. I was thinking that we should figure out a way to capture a few wild rabbits alive and breed them for a sure meat supply. Was that possible? Why not, if we stay here? And we should stay.

"Nothing we find farther north will be any

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better or any safer than this," I said. "It will be hard to live here, but if we work together, and if we're careful, it should be possible. We can build a community here."

"Oh, god, there she goes with her Earthseed shit

again," Allie said. But she smiled a little as she said it. That was good. She hadn't smiled much lately. "We can build a community here," I repeated. "It's dangerous, sure, but, hell, it's dangerous everywhere, and the more people there are packed

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together in cities, the more danger there is. This is a ridiculous place to build a community. It's isolated, miles from everywhere with no decent road leading here, but for us, for now, it's perfect."

"Except that someone burned this place down last time," Grayson Mora said. "Anything we build out here by itself is a target."

"Anything we build

anywhere is a target," Zahra

argued. "But the people out here before. . . . I'm sorry Bankole, I gotta say this: They

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couldn't have kept a good watch-a man and a woman and three kids. They would have worked hard all day, then slept all night. It would have been too hard on just two grown people to try to sit up and watch for half the night each."

"They didn't keep a night watch," Bankole said.

"We'll have to keep one, though. And we could use a

couple of dogs. If we could get them as puppies and

train them to guard-"

"Give meat to dogs?" Mora demanded, outraged.

"Not soon."

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Bankole shrugged. "Not until we have

enough for ourselves. But if we can get dogs, they'll help us keep the rest of our goods."

"I wouldn't give a dog nothing but a bullet or a rock," Mora said. "I saw dogs eat a woman once."

"There are no jobs in that town Bankole and I went to," Harry said. "There was nothing. Not even work for room and board. I asked all over town. No one even knew of anything."

I frowned. "The towns around here are all close to the highway," I

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said. "They must get a lot of people passing through, looking for a place to settle-or maybe a place to rob, rape, kill. The locals wouldn't welcome new people. They wouldn't trust anyone they didn't know."

Harry looked from me to Bankole.

"She's right," Bankole said. "My brother-in-law had a hard time before people began to get used to him, and he moved up here before things got so bad. He knew plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, and motor vehicle mechanics. Of

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course, it didn't help that he was black. Being white might help you win people over faster than he did. I think, though, that any serious money we make here will come from the land. Food is gold these days, and we can grow food here. We have guns to protect ourselves, so we can sell our crops in nearby towns or on the highway."

"If we survive long enough to grow anything to sell,"

Mora muttered. "If there's enough water, if the bugs

don't eat our crops, if no one

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burns us out the way they did those people over the hill, if, if, if!" Allie sighed. "Shit, it's if, if, if anywhere you go. This place isn't so bad." She was sitting on her sleepsack, holding the sleeping Justin's head in her lap. As she spoke, she stroked the boy's hair. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that no matter how tough Allie tried to seem, that little boy was the key to her. Children were the keys to most of the adults present.

"There are no

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guarantees anywhere," I agreed. "But if we're willing to work, our chances are good here. I've got some seed in my pack. We can buy more. What we have to do at this point is more like gardening than farming. Everything will have to be done by hand-composting, watering, weeding, picking worms or slugs or whatever off the crops and killing them one by one if that's what it takes. As for water, if our well still has water in it now, in October, I don't think we have to

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worry about it going dry on us. Not this year, anyway."

"And if people threaten us or our crop, we kill them. That's all. We kill them, or they kill us. If we work together, we can defend ourselves, and we can protect the kids. A community's first responsibility is to protect its children-the ones we have now and the ones we will have."

There was silence for a while, people digesting,

perhaps measuring it against what they had to look forward to if they left this

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place and continued north. "We should decide," I said. "We have building and planting to do here. We have to buy more food, more seed and tools." It was time for directness:

"Allie, will you stay?"

She looked across the dead fire at me, stared hard at me as though she hoped to see something on my face that would give her an answer.

"What seed do you have?" she asked.

I drew a deep breath. "Most of it is summer stuff- corn, peppers, sunflowers, eggplant, melons,

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tomatoes, beans, squash. But I have some winter things; peas, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, winter squash, onions, asparagus, herbs, several kinds of greens. . . . We can buy more, and we've got the stuff left in this garden plus what we can harvest from the local oak, pine, and citrus trees. I brought tree seeds too: more oak, citrus, peach, pear, nectarine, almond, walnut, a few others. They won't do us any good for a few years, but they're a hell of an investment in

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the future."

"So is a kid," Allie said. "I didn't think I would be dumb enough to say this, but yeah, I'll stay. I want to build something too. I never had a chance to build anything before."

Allie, and Justin were a yes, then.

"Harry? Zahra?"

"Of course we're staying," Zahra said.

Harry frowned. "Wait a minute. We don't have to." "I know. But we are. If we can make a community like Lauren says and not have to hire out to strangers and trust them when they

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shouldn't be trusted, then we should do it. If you grew up where I did, you'd know we should."

"Harry," I said, "I've known you all my life. You're the closest thing to a brother that I have left. You aren't really thinking about leaving, are you?" It wasn't the world's best argument. He had been both cousin and lover to Joanne, and he'd let her go when he could have gone with her.

"I want something of my own," he said. "Land, a home, maybe a store or a small farm.

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Something that's mine. This land is Bankole's."

"Yes," Bankole said. "And you'll be getting the use of it rent free-and all the water you need. What are those things going to cost you farther north-if you can get them at all farther north-if you can get yourself out of California."

"But there's no work here!"

"Not to work in those places. The women warned me."

"I've heard of places like that," Bankole said. "They

were supposed to provide jobs for that


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flowing river of people. President

Donner's all for them. The workers are more

throwaways than slaves. They breathe toxic fumes or drink contaminated water or get caught in unshielded machinery. . . . It doesn't matter. They're easy to replace-thousands of jobless for every job." "Borderworks," Mora said. "Not all of them are that bad. I heard some pay cash wages, not company script."

"Is that where you want to go?" I asked. "Or do you want to stay here?"

He looked


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down at Doe who was still nibbling at a piece of sweet potato. "I want to stay here," he said, surprising me. "I'm not sure you have a hope in hell of building anything here, but you're just crazy enough to make it work." And if it didn't work, he'd be no worse off than he was when he escaped slavery. He could rob someone and continue his journey north. Or maybe not. I'd been thinking about Mora. He did a lot to keep people away from him- keep them from knowing too much

· · mastodon-py · 1 · 0 · 0

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about him, keep them from seeing what he was feeling, or that he was feeling anything-a male sharer, desperate to hide his terrible vulnerability? Sharing would be harder on a man. What would my brothers have been like as sharers? Odd that I hadn't thought of that before.

"I'm glad you're staying," I said. "We need you." I looked at Travis and Natividad. "We need you guys, too. "You're staying, aren't you?"

"You know we are," Travis said. "Although I think I agree

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more than I want to with Mora. I'm not sure we have a prayer of succeeding here."

"We'll have whatever we can shape," I said. And I turned to face Harry. He and Zahra had been whispering together. Now he looked at me.

"Mora's right," he said. "You're nuts."

I sighed.

"But this is a crazy time," he continued. "Maybe you're what the time needs-or what we need. I'll stay. I may be sorry for it, but I'll stay." Now the decision is acknowledged, and we can stop arguing

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about it. Tomorrow we'll begin to prepare a winter garden. Next week, several of us will go into town to buy tools, more seed, supplies. Also, it's time we began to build a shelter. There are trees enough in the area, and we can dig into the ground and into the hills. Mora says he's built slave cabins before. Says he's eager to build something better, something fit for human beings. Besides, this far north and this near the coast, we might get some rain.


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OCTOBER 10, 2027

Today we had a funeral for Bankole's dead-the five

people who died in the fire. The cops never came. At last Bankole has decided that they aren't going to come, and that it's time his sister and her family had

a decent burial. We collected all the bones that we could find, and yesterday, Natividad wrapped them in a shawl that she had knitted years ago. It was the most beautiful thing she owned.

"A thing like that should serve the living," Bankole

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said when she offered it.

"You are living," Natividad said. "I like you. I wish I could have met your sister."

He looked at her for a while. Then he took the shawl and hugged her. Then, beginning to cry, he went off by himself into the trees, out of our sight. I let him alone for an hour or so, then went after him. I found him, sitting on a fallen log, wiping his face. I sat with him for some time, saying nothing. After a while, he got up, waited for me to stand,

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then headed back toward our camp.

"I would like to give them a grove of oak trees," I said. "Trees are better than stone-life commemorating life.

He glanced back at me. "All right."


He stopped, looked at me with an expression I could not read.

"None of us knew her," I said. "I wish we had. I wish I had, no matter how much I would have surprised her."

He managed a smile. "She would have looked at you, then looked at me, then, right in front of you, I

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think she would have said, 'Well, there's no fool like an old fool.' Once she got that out of her system, I think she would have gotten to like you."

"Do you think she could stand. . .or forgive company now?"

"No." He drew me to his side and put one arm around me. "Human beings will survive of course. Some other countries will survive. Maybe they'll absorb what's left of us. Or maybe we'll just break up into a lot of little states quarreling and fighting with each

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other over whatever crumbs are left. That's almost happened now with states shutting themselves off from one another, treating state lines as national borders. As bright as you are, I don't think you understand-I don't think you can understand what we've lost. Perhaps that's a blessing."

"God is Change," I said.

"Olamina, that doesn't mean anything."

"It means everything. Everything!"

He sighed. "You know, as bad as things are, we haven't even hit bottom yet.

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Starvation, disease, drug damage, and mob rule have only begun.

Federal, state, and local governments still exist-in

name at least-and sometimes they manage to do

something more than collect taxes and send in the

military. And the money is still good. That amazes

me. However much more you need of it to buy

anything these days, it is still accepted. That may be a hopeful sign-or perhaps it's only more evidence of what I just said: We haven't hit bottom yet." "Well,

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the group of us here doesn't have to sink any lower," I said.

He shook his shaggy head, his hair, beard, and serious expression making him look more than a little like an old picture I used to have of Frederick Douglass.

"I wish I believed that," he said. Perhaps it was his grief talking. "I don't think we have a hope in hell of succeeding here."

I slipped my arm around him. "Let's go back," I said.

"We've got work to do."

So today we remembered the friends and

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the family members we've lost. We spoke our individual memories and quoted Bible passages, Earthseed verses, and bits of songs and poems that were favorites of the living or the dead.

Then we buried our dead and we planted oak trees. Afterward, we sat together and talked and ate a meal and decided to call this place Acorn.

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he

sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was

trodden down, and the fowls of the air

devoured it.

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And some fell upon a rock; and

as soon as it was sprung up, it withered

away because it lacked moisture. And some

fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up

with it, and choked it. And other fell on good

ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an


The Bible

Authorized King James Version

St. Luke 8: 5-8

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