One of the best things about living on the outskirts of the city near the San Antonio River is the wide open green space surrounding our neighborhood. We enjoy vast green vistas on our daily walks along the San Juan Acequia Trail and the Mission Reach. What a gift it is to stand on the banks watching the river flow toward the Gulf of Mexico while a wide variety of birds soar overhead into the brilliant sunset shining in the distance.
But one of my very favorite sights is a much, much smaller one that literally brings me down to my knees on a regular basis to watch the tiny leaves of the Sensitive Briar (Mimosa Pudica), growing along the edges of the trail, reacting instantly to even the lightest touch, by shrinking into themselves. It's mind-boggling to watch the rapid contraction (thigmonasty) of the leaves, a startling rapid response I normally associate with creatures, not plants. I don't fully understand the biochemical reactions involved, but it sure is an amazing process to watch.
SPRINGING TO ACTION
One moment, the two rows of tiny leaves, neatly lined up along either side of a tiny stem, are bright green and sturdy-looking; the next moment, they literally twirl into action at the slightest touch, leaving a whole section of the plant looking completely shriveled up and dead, with just a row of sharp little spines exposed to any animals wanting to graze on this nutritious plant. But if left alone for a few minutes longer, the leaves gradually unfurl and go back to their serious work of harvesting the sunlight the plant needs for the life-sustaining process of photosynthesis.
CONTRACTING IN RESPONSE
I remember being amazed and amused while playing with these same plants when I was very young, just like I used to love catching fireflies and watching them light up in my hands. But, I'd largely forgotten about sensitive briars until recently, when the injuries I sustained in a major car wreck last year made me increasingly aware of my body, my surroundings and the many little gifts, guides and reminders of the miracles that life has to offer, day in, day out. I've learned that such reminders are always available, if I'm just willing to slow down and pay attention, and these little sensitive briars are certainly among them.
CHOOSING TO BLOOM
Watching these plants in action provides a strikingly visual metaphor for how easy it is to withdraw and contract defensively when our ego feels like it's being threatened - and how important it is to be aware of such contractions, and open ourselves up and get back to the vital business of engaging in the life-sustaining flow of Love moving through us. I'm so grateful to the tiny Mimosa Pudica for teaching me such a big little lesson: life's too precious to spend in a contracted state. Why not open up and blossom instead?