The cylindropuntia bigelovii, or teddy bear cholla, sometimes called a jumping cactus, is my nemesis on my walks. Those little segment that glow with an iridescent radiance in the early morning and look very cuddly, are in fact spiny beasts that hide and giggle with glee when they can attach themselves to your foot or leg. Well—maybe they don’t giggle audibly, but I think they do gloat a little.
Once a cholla segment touches your shoe, the spines go through like they’re swimming through butter and pierce your foot. At that point, there is no walking on until you get to a place to sit down and remove your shoe. The pain is intense enough that you stop right there and do your best to remove the critter. I carry a knife with me at all times when I’m hiking in the desert. I know other people who carry a comb to get underneath the segment and pop it out of the shoe or skin. Tweezers are helpful to have on hand too.
I have to admit—sometimes I grumble about the cholla in my shoe/foot. Or, worse, in my dog’s foot or leg. I wonder why these cacti are even out there. Imagine my surprise when I walked by a cylindorpuntia bigelovii (I love that name. lol) and there were tiny pink things among the spines.
Watching the ground for wayward segments, I moved closer until I could see they were small flowers amid the stickers. Fairly pretty flowers. I took some pictures and went on my way pondering the lesson learned. Even my nemesis had a redeeming value. Hmmmm. There’s a point to consider.
When I read, or write, a book, the best antagonist is not just a horrible person. They usually have a redeeming trait. For instance, I recently read The Marsh King’s Daughterby Karen Dionne, a psychological suspense. The father in the story does horrific acts and is an antagonist you want to hate. But, in the midst of the story, he also has moments of tenderness, which makes him a multi-dimensional character, giving you conflicting emotions when you think about him.
In life, I have come across people who were difficult to be around for one reason or another. Seeing that tiny flower on a prickly plant reminds me that even the prickliest person has a redeeming quality or part of them. That quality may only show up for brief moments and you have to be watching to see the flash of beauty.
Whether a prickly plant, a book character or a real person, I have now learned to watch for the beauty among the spines. I find if I’m looking for the positive instead of focusing on the negative I find those bits of redeeming value much easier. When I am honest, I realize God looked down on my prickly, spiny persona and saw something He loved. I need to do the same to others.