Cacti are blooming all over the Sonoran Desert right now. From ground-hugging hedgehogs to skyscraping saguaros, brilliant flowers are unveiling themselves in sartorial splendor. Many blooms last only a day, making it an exciting challenge for me to see how many I can manage to photograph. (I’ll continue to share some of this year’s captures on Instagram over the week ahead.)

But the flowers are not ultimately the point for the cacti. These large, showy flowers have but one purpose: to attract pollinators. The gorgeous smells, bright colors, and petals waving in the breeze are all designed to bring in the bats, birds, and bees. Without pollinators there would be no proliferation. Without help in spreading the pollen from one flower to another, the attractive blossoms would be useless. Their primary mission is not to be beautiful, but to generate fruits with seeds, which is what enables the next generation of plants.

We humans tend to focus on blossoms. In fact, we have this habit of cultivating many species of plants specifically for their flowers, not their fruits. We develop “cutting gardens” with the sole intent to harvest flowers at their peak and bring them indoors to decorate our houses. I wonder how the plants feel about that, having their fruitfulness denied to them, year after year.

We prematurely cut down humans too, and deny them fruitfulness. Perhaps it’s the child whose teacher tells them, “Don’t bother, you can’t draw.” Sometimes it’s the bright student who can’t afford higher education and gets shoved instead into a menial job which doesn’t fit their skills and leads to the buildup of an unbearable morass of pain and frustration that eventually erupts in harmful ways. Far too frequently, it’s the person whose life is cut short because they had an encounter with someone powerful who didn’t like them because of the color of their skin.

Yes, George Floyd’s murderer was found guilty last week, and I am grateful for that small bit of justice. But in terms of our society, that was a flower, not the fruit. Another black man was killed the day Chauvin’s verdict was announced. The cycle keeps repeating itself, over and over and over again. One guilty verdict will not change that—unless it is followed by others. The pollination of change cannot happen with only one flower. We have a lot of work to do in order to enact real change.

What blossoms do you nurture in your Garden of the Heart? What can you do to make sure they are not harvested or celebrated prematurely, but persevere to bear good fruit?

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