A Wilderness

Fall 1987

This assignment in 11th grade was to compare oneself to an object in nature. Growing up in the plains of Colorado I had seen the rare prickly pear cactus bloom, an unexpectedly beautiful flower where none would be expected. I was pleased with the artistry of the comparison, and indeed it was accurate. It's quite unusual for my self-reflections of the time, that while there is a pessimistic cast, there is also a statement that there's something beautiful inside if you can get to it.

The prickly pear cactus seems at first to be a very unwelcoming object. It is situated in the middle of the desert, completely alone.

How it survives in that dry wilderness is always a mystery, know only to itself. It is covered with spines that make it one of the most forbidding inhabitants of the desert wilderness. Yet in spite of these seemingly negative qualities, alone in the desert, when nobody cares to watch, it produces some of the most beautiful blooms known of all the flowers in the world.

I consider myself to be very like the prickly pear cactus. I too am alone in a wilderness. There is nobody for me; I must live alone. There is no reason even for me to exist. Nevertheless I do. My existence does not seem to make much difference to anybody, out in this horrible wilderness, and many people think that because of my spines I should be destroyed. But my seclusion protects me here, just as at other times it hurts me. Nobody bothers to come out to cherish me, and nobody bothers to come out to hurt me.

These spines that are my trademark keep people away just as the wilderness does. They were evolved over the years for that purpose, not because I hate people, but because people hate me. These spines have seen a lot of use; over the years they have grown thick and sharp with exercise, more so now than ever. They are not here by my own choice; they have simply been built up out of necessity. Eventually they will fall off, when and if I grow older. But for now, they are here, on me, in all their "protective" strength.

In spite of my spines, and my total seclusion, however, I bloom. Furthermore, my bloom is beautiful. Few people bother to come see it, but when those few that do come compare the appearance of mine to that of the other flowers', they see just how wonderful I am. They see, and they marvel. And then they love. These few people know the whole of what I am, not only the hard outer part.

How sad it is that so few people have the courage to trek through the wilderness, to reach between the spines, to touch the heart of the flower, to enrich both it and themselves.