The creation of Comfort Seeds, a group that uses gardening for healing, is a tale full of heartwarming hope and inspiration. When asked about her experience with Comfort Seeds, founder Katie Diez replied, "I never imagined such a positive reaction."
This simple act and concept started with an unexpected discovery. When her father passed away from cancer in 2006, Katie kept many of his shirts. They sat for several years until she decided to create a few quilts from them. While cutting the shirts into squares, she happened upon a tiny tomato seed on one of the outside pockets. She didn't think much about it, but then another appeared, as if begging to be planted.
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Katie sowed the seed, cared for it, and in a short few months, a 10-foot-tall tomato plant developed. With the seeds from this plant, she replanted, and the cycle continued. In fact, those seeds have now spread throughout the community!
Comfort Seeds emerged as a natural extension of Katie's occupation. As a pediatric occupational therapist with the High Desert Education Service District, she has been helping others heal for years. She works with kids who have experienced trauma in their lives, whether physical, cognitive or social. She often implements Social Emotional Learning and mindfulness practices into her therapy. Interactive social activities are often the key to therapy, which likely gave her the idea to share her tomato seeds.
First, she shared them with family and friends, and then later with others at a grief camp run by her husband. The feedback was immediate. Katie explains, "Kids like to hear my story, and they always love to plant the seed."
The idea, in Katie's mind, has become a metaphor for impermanence and rebirth. It reminds us that life continues and thrives through us and our offspring. Gardening is also a form of mindfulness, a way to relax, gather thoughts and develop a better understanding of the process of life through interaction with the seeds and soil. When kids open up or have a desire to garden, Katie realizes she is making a difference.
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"From my story, kids create their own. This gives them a stake and they become part of it. They share stories of the coexistence of beauty and grief."
The concept of Hygge, which is a Danish word that embodies the act ofgiving comfort, joy and contentment, had always intrigued Katie. But when an institution dedicated to the study of well-being opened the first ever Happiness Museum in Denmark in 2020, Katie decided to send in her story and a pack of tomato seeds. The scientists were touched, chose her contribution and invited her to Denmark! She is planning to travel as soon as things open up a bit more.
When asked about the future of Comfort Seeds, Katie excitedly discusses an upcoming book with Manda Byrn Severin, the talented illustrator who developed the Comfort Seeds website.
Manda expresses,"Katie's story is rich with layers. To me, it was an irresistible assignment and I'm so lucky to breathe more life into it."
Manda has a passion for painting anything nature. Her bright, vivid style is her way of expressing and enhancing life in her drawings.
"Katie teaches us to be mindful, and to notice those small things that could have a large impact," says Manda.
The book has no release date yet, but in the meantime, head over to the Comfort Seeds website which is full of her vividly eye-popping illustrations.
The site also details in depth the story and intention of Comfort Seeds and provides grief resources for kids and adults. On the Community tab, anyone can submit their own stories, drawings or read those of others. And anyone can request a free packet of Katie's tomato seeds!
As the project grows, Katie hopes kids will continue to share their stories, poetry and art. Many people are coping with loss or similar issues during these uncertain times, and we could all use a forum to share our experiences. The realization that others share the same feelings helps us connect. Comfort Seeds provides this comfortable space of hope and healing where life carries on, and so do we.