Lessons from a Cactus
By Marsha Reeves
One of the most powerful teachings we hear from traditional wisdom carriers in ‘Indian Country’ is that humans are basically pitiful creatures. We have no fangs, claws, sharp vision, super hearing or even fur or feathers to keep us warm. Therefore, the rest of creation has been instructed to help us out. Many of the old stories are about how we have been taught by various members of other species how to fish, hunt, build houses, and find food and medicines. We are also taught that Creation didn’t just happen once, but that it’s ongoing and we are a part of it.
I’m pretty sure my cactus taught me something important.
The last couple of years have been seriously busy for me and sometimes I haven’t taken the best care of our houseplants. Honestly, most everything outside of the cactus plants, who don’t need much from humans, has died. The beautiful flowering cactus here had seriously outgrown its pot and needed a new one, to the point that the roots were breaking the old pot to pieces. I knew I needed to remedy that and kept making small steps toward fixing it. I found a new pot that should work, had the potting soil ready to go and then got a virus or was recovering slowly from a virus, or was busy with the health issues of others until one day I realized that the cactus was DYING! Leaves were withering and falling off, the whole thing was drooping until half of it just fell off onto the floor!
That definitely pushed it to the top of my priority list. When I finally got what was left of the root ball into the new pot, I saw that the root was a lot smaller than it had been before the disaster. It had become about the size that the old pot used to be, and the part of the plant that was growing from that root was healthy and beautiful.
It has since settled into the new pot, started growing again and even produced some blossoms this fall! But it got me thinking.
The climate scientists that were ignored and ridiculed for the last couple of decades have been proven accurate beyond anything we ever imagined. Things are unfolding exactly as predicted, with wildfires, floods, and fearsome storms occurring with regularity now. Now those same scientists are saying that we only have nine years to turn things around if we want humans to be able to continue to live on this planet. There’s no more time to dink around waiting for government to fix this. We are on our own. Each and every one of us needs to do everything we can to stop this train wreck from happening if we want our grandkids to be able to live here, and Mars isn’t really an option yet.
That cactus diminished itself by half to continue to live where it was planted.
Americans, including those of us in West Michigan, on average consume 5 times our share of the earth’s resources. We have only 4.5 % of the world’s population, yet we consume 20% of earth’s resources. We are like the cactus trying to maintain our lifestyles way out of proportion to what is even close to our fair share.
Humans have the blessing of being one of Creation’s smarter creatures in many ways, despite being pretty foolish a lot of the time. We can figure out how to burn fewer fossil fuels, live with a lot less stuff and be happy at the same time, some of this by going back to old ways of doing things. We can be smarter with the use of our personal resources, like darning sweaters instead of buying new ones, buying food from local farmers instead of from halfway around the world, growing gardens, or even putting more insulation in the attic instead of taking the grandkids to Disney World, giving them a better chance at having their own grandkids instead of a few weeks of thrill.
That cactus was smart! It cut its resource use in half in order to save its life and continue blooming. I hope we can be as smart as that cactus.
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