When we’re challenged by hard times—environmental, social, personal—nature can offer valuable lessons on how to endure. In her book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, about growing up in rural Georgia, Janisse Ray describes the life lessons she learned from a pitcher plant.
“The pitcher plant taught me to love rain, welcoming days of drizzle and sudden thundering downpours, drops trailing down its hoods and leaves, soaking the ground. In my fascination with pitcher plant, I learned to detest artificial bouquets of plastic and silk. Its carnivory taught me the sinlessness of predation and its columns of dead insects the glory of purpose no matter how small. In that plant I was looking for a manera de ser, a way of being—no, not for a way of being but of being able to be. I was looking for a patch of ground that supported the survival of rare, precious, and endangered biota within my own heart.”
We don’t have to travel to remote, exotic places to find great teachers. They’re everywhere—in the back yard, the city park, the night sky, even in our house plants or in the ladybugs who have a knack of suddenly materializing on the window ledge. Their lessons are direct, subtle, and often surprising. Spending a few minutes hanging out with a “being” from the natural world may give us just the boost we need to keep going.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Pitcher Plant: Park Seed


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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.