Nabhan, G.P. 1990. Desert Plants as Calories, Cures, and Characters; & The Creosote Bush is Our Drugstore. pg. 2-19 in Gathering the Desert. Univ. Of Arizona Press.
How do we spend our time? How do we really spend our time? And why do we prioritize our lives into the very particular ways that we do? We use so much time working and commuting to and from that work place, in essence specializing our expertise to the point that it is all put into a single focus. But why? Nabhan raises this point very effectively on the second page of his writing in relating the comments made by a woman living on the Sonoran Desert. We use so much of our time to earn money to buy food, other necessities, and sometimes even luxuries, but why not use a bit of that time to collect and prepare the food that grows just outside the front door?
“Even if you don’t gather the desert, let it gather a feeling in you. Even if you don’t swallow it as medicine, meditate upon it: the desert can cure.”
This passage struck me. It gave me adrenaline and made me feel elated and incredibly sad all at once. Although I have never been to the Sonoran Desert, I did grow up in a semi-desert not far from here. These small phrases somehow captured my imagination, giving me thoughts of childhood, summer rains, and returning more recently to learn about native plants and desert love. My thoughts on this reading are beginning to come full circle back to what came up for me in the section of In Praise of Plants by Francis Halle back in January.
Biology Needs Poetry.
The first time I thought this was from wisps that Halle left behind in his writings on plant form. And those wisps were needed. Now, in reading Nabhan there is very real poetry present, from the words and phrases used all the way down to the diamond shape he chose to place his last paragraph of his introduction in. The poetry here is so much more present, and still so vital.
Each plant has an identity. Whether or not it knows this I cannot say, but to humans it certainly does. We place them in stories, eat them, heal and kill them at will while simultaneously using them to heal and kill one another. And this meaning changes, depending on who, when, and where you ask. Desert plants were at one time so important that entire nations of people were named upon them. Today, that is changing. Some plants are ignored, while others are cultivated and watered, producing products that we no longer associate with the first growth. Plants are symbols which can reflect our spirits, so I ask once again, how do we really spend our time? And to what end?