Saturday, May 5, 2012

The entry where I compare myself to a cactus

It's funny where I get inspiration for a blog topic. A few days ago I went to the gas station and while inside, I got on the topic of cacti with the cashier. I have always loved cacti but could never quite put my finger on the exact reason why I loved this desert plant. I thought more about cacti on the drive home that day and finally figured out why the cacti family speaks to my heart.

This entry will be rather personal, but I will try my best to remain objective. Life isn't perfect. Everyone has their issues and obstacles. Right now, I'm going through a bit of a rough patch. So maybe my discussion with the gas station cashier was well-timed. I do love nature and always look for ways it can relate to my life. Writing helps put words to my emotions and sometimes helps put an end to the occasional self-destructive thoughts that spin around in my head.

Cacti are found only in North and South America. There are over 1500 species with most found in the drier, subtropical regions. Many species of cacti tolerate high temperatures and are capable of living several years without water. Most cacti have edible fruit and a few species have been used in the past to treat spider bites and diarrhea.

To put it simply, I didn't have an ideal childhood. It wasn't a bad childhood, but I had a father who was mentally ill and emotionally abusive. I'll skip the details but I will say, do not tell me his abuse stemmed from his mental illness. It did not. I've had years of therapy to sort through all of that and support my knowledge of that fact.  To make matters worse, I was also bullied in grade school.  I had no safe place, no shelter at the end of the day. I couldn't seek relief from the verbal or emotional abuse at home or school.

Cacti live in a harsh environment. Sometimes they receive no rain, or maybe just an inch of rain in any given year. As a result, these plants have developed amazing ways to hold on to the precious commodity of moisture. Cacti have a waxy exterior coating to minimize water loss.  Most plants open their pores (also called stomata) during the day for respiration, but to conserve moisture, cacti open their stomata at night for respiration.Everyone knows the cacti have the spines as a means of defending themselves against those animals in search of water.  However, the spines on a cacti are also modified leaves and provide a measure of shade which reduces the heat on the stem and again, minimizes the loss of moisture.


Emotionally speaking, there were times in my life, especially during my childhood, that I lived in a harsh, desert-like environment, devoid of the nurturing, praise and relief from hardships. Like my cacti friends, I developed my defenses and learned to survive in difficult environments. I made the most of what I had and eventually learned to create my own happiness and relief during the difficult times.

Some cacti have beautiful flowers that bloom in the spring and/or after a good rain. Many people will visit certain areas, such as Big Bend National Park (where I took these photos) during the spring months just to see the cacti in bloom. The cacti always make me think of the adage "Bloom where you are planted". It doesn't matter where you are, or what life has thrown at you, YOU have the means to create your own oasis in the climate of life's hardships.

Right now I am going through a difficult time. A few weeks ago I had to put my oldest cat Amelia to sleep. She was severely arthritic and had been in heart failure for over a year. I got her a few months after my sister died and that darling cat got me through some dark days of grief. Needless to say, there was a connection between Amelia and my sister. Losing Amelia was like losing my sister all over again. I've been quite depressed. Symbolically speaking, I'm in the middle of the desert, trying to cope with the blistering heat and no rain. My reserves are there; friends, nature, writing, and reading, but there is no joy or enthusiasm for the things I love. I'm going through the motions of doing the things I love with no interest or relief, but I persist because I believe on some level it's helping me. This will pass. I'll survive and bloom again.


  1. Aww...I think of you as sweet and soft and gooshy. Not at all prickly. Sorry about your current state of affairs. You will flourish again, on your own timetable.

  2. Sending you a huge hug Chickadee. You are smart and a deep thinker. You will get through this because you are already so strong. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for - again - teaching me some things I didn't know : )

  3. Hillbilly Mom - hehe, I think you know me too well. I'm probably not as pokey and sharp as I'd like to think. Well, at least when it comes to my birds. And thanks for reminding me about MY timetable...I always try to rush things and I'm only making myself miserable when I do that.

    Michaele - I don't feel strong, but you haven't been the first person to remind me of that strength. And I usually learn things too when I post my entries
    , whether it be the facts I share, or some personal thing not printed ;)