“If we have a wonderful
sense of the divine,
it is because we live amid
such awesome magnificence.”
- Thomas Berry
Hidden deep within the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, is the Coleman-Lienhart Savage Garden, home to more than sixty kinds of carnivorous plants, including the fascinating “pitcher plant.” These plants live in places where other plants cannot survive because they are not dependent upon the soil in which they grow. They trap and digest living things!
Insects are attracted to the mouth of the leaf of the pitcher plant by nectar-secreting glands that guide the prey down a slippery interior into a pool of nectar below. The tip of the leaf closes and points bristles downward to keep the prey from escaping. The trapped prey drowns in the nectar and is digested by enzymes secreted within the leaf.
Pitcher plants vary greatly in color, shape, ornamentation, and size. Some grow large enough to attract and digest small rodents! In places where most plants cannot survive, the hungry pitcher plant opens itself, waits to recognize, takes in, and absorbs what it needs.
In his book, “The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus,” Sufi mystic and scholar Neil Douglas-Klotz dives deeply into the spoken language of Jesus of Nazareth, exploring his Jewish Middle Eastern viewpoint. Klotz’s research exposes significant differences between the traditionally Greek interpretation of the language of Jesus and the actual spoken language of a native Middle Eastern person in the first century. In the words of the author, “the word for pray, shela, can mean to incline or bend toward, listen to, or lay a snare for… The old Hebrew roots also present the image of a bottomless depth or cavern, or the shadow created by a canopy, roof, or veil.” Prayer is like the pitcher plant! Hungry – opening up – recognizing that which is life-giving – absorbing into oneself!
“When the student is ready,
the teacher will appear.”
- Buddhist Proverb
Not far from the Marie Selby Gardens, in the salty, brackish, oxygen-poor water of west coast Florida, forests of highly adapted mangroves thrive. Mangroves are living ecosystems of coastal shrubs or small trees. Their complex root systems include roots extending upward, protruding above the water to absorb oxygen. Horizontal roots grow below the surface to anchor the trees in unstable mud. Webs of prop roots provide stability in changing tides and support the trees as they age.
A small number of individual leaves absorb enough salt to insure the life of the parent mangrove. Increasing concentrations of salt cause these individual leaves to yellow and fall, sacrificially, from the tree. Amazing!
There is religion in everything
A calm and holy religion
In the unbreathing things in Nature.
It is a meek and blessed influence,
Stealing in as it were upon the heart,
It comes quickly,
and without excitement,
It has no terror, no gloom.
It does not rouse up the passions;
It is untrammeled by creeds…
It is written on the arched sky;
It looks out from every star;
It is on the sailing cloud
and in the invisible wind;
It is among the hills and valleys
of the earth
Where the shrubless mountain-top
pierces the thin atmosphere
of eternal winter,
Or where the mighty forest
fluctuates before the strong wind,
With its dark waves of green foliage.
It is spread out like a legible language
upon the broad face of an
It is the poetry of Nature.
It is that which uplifts
the spirit within us…
And which opens to our imagination
a world of spiritual beauty
- John Ruskin
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