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No one writes poetry about thorns: Reconnecting with nature

Illustration: Shelby Ticsay

Welcome back to the garden, where we are decolonizing our understanding of parenthood. Not everyone is a parent, but everyone has been parented. This is important to understand because we are collectively raising the revolution.

Looking at our upbringing and how it impacts the next generation allows us the opportunity to examine thought patterns and the narratives that have shaped our identity. We look inward so we can be intentional about what we project outward.

The process of decolonization is reconnecting with the parts of ourselves that the colonizer separated us from. We’ve always been connected to our ancestors, land, culture, and indigenous ways of being. But sometimes, that separation can last lifetimes, and now we are coming home.

Roots + Soil

Last time in the garden, we examined roots and soil. Are your root systems deep and organic in the motherland or transplanted to new soil to nurture new systems? Maybe you’ve been uprooted several times and long for a deeper connection to the land. Sometimes after transplanting, roots are fragile and need time to thicken and mature. So be gentle and patient.

Was your soil dark and nutrient-rich, or did you crave more water, sun, and nutrients? Experimenting with this chemistry, we’ll learn what we can do to fortify the conditions for the next abundant harvest.

Thorns + Blossoms

As we become master gardeners, we’ll inevitably encounter thorns and other protective mechanisms that nature has put in place to ensure the plant’s survival. For the casual gardener, thorns, spines, and prickles may seem like an inconvenience or something to be pruned and tossed. Thorns can be painful if not handled properly. It can even distract from the beauty of a blossom.

But you, dear gardener, are learning other ways of seeing, reconnecting with nature, observing what naturally occurs and has been occurring for generations, and appreciating that thorns are not the problem with the blossom. Thorns are vital in protecting the plant long enough for the flower to blossom. We must honor our thorns.

Reconnecting with natural cycles is a tricky business.

When disconnected from our land for so long, we are taught to worship the beautiful flower, pathologize the painful thorns, and pursue formulas that yield bigger flowers faster. More. Faster. Bigger. Metrics of success become distorted into beautiful optics rather than the sustainability of the garden.

Surely something must be wrong with the gardener who doesn’t want big beautiful flowers and luscious fruit. No one writes poetry about thorns.

But this makes sense, of course. Nature’s tempo is slow and measured. It must be in order to regenerate for generations. To produce output at a rate fast enough for oppressive systems like capitalism to deem valuable, we are compelled to disconnect with the natural in favor of artificial and manufactured outcomes.

That means cutting away natural protective mechanisms like our thorns, which have long been associated with adversity, to streamline production and output. But the absence of adversity does not necessarily equal a thriving existence. Naming our thorns, often a result of our colonial mentality aids in generational healing.

Gardening Tips

What kind of gardening tips did the generations before you pass on?

Some of us were taught to listen to the land and protect it at all costs. Trust the cycles and seasons because that is what guided us for generations.

Maybe we’ve been separated from our land, its purpose, and rituals and have opted for convenience and beauty. But this, too, is a form of survival and coping.

Perhaps you are in a new space reclaiming these other ways of seeing and being that align with our indigenous teachings, remembering it is your birthright to be in nature. Welcome home.

What gardening tips will our youth take from us?

Rooting for you.


Plantitas Unite

All this talk about gardens is enough to inspire any plantita to variegate their little plot of earth. If you’re feeling adventurous, let’s take a look at a particularly prickly varietal with some religious roots. Ingat with those thorns and happy gardening!

English name: Crown of Thorns, also called Christ thorn

Scientific name: Euphorbia milii

Native: Madagascar

Care: Euphorbia milii grows best in areas receiving full sun or partial shade at elevations from sea level up to 1500 m. It can successfully grow in acidic, alkaline, sandy, and loamy soils. This species has high drought and salt tolerance and thrives in dry and semiarid climates but does not tolerate temperatures below 10°C.

Thrives: Indoor or outdoor

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11

Fun Fact: The thick, fleshy tear-shaped leaves appear on stems armed with sharp, inch-long spines. The plant gets its common name from the legend that the thorny crown worn by Jesus at his crucifixion was made from sections of this plant.

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