By Andre Oosthuizen
Four years ago, I planted a young Echinopsis cactus – household name the Domino cactus – in a large terra-cotta pot, which I placed in a sunlit part of the front patio. My knowledge of cacti was, at the time, almost non-existent. The then applicable water restrictions had led to an upsurge in water-wise gardening, and to cacti suddenly becoming popular.
The Echinopsis grew and flourished through that Summer, and the following Autumn and Winter. Then, as the Spring of the following year approached, something unexpected happened. Seven tiny pods, baby cacti, rose out of the soil, forming a circle around the parent plant and attached to it. During Spring and Summer, those seven babies grew to the point where, about 11 months later, each of them emerged a beautiful and perfectly formed cactus plant.
I separated them from the parent, applied pruning sealer to any exposed fleshy areas, and placed each baby cactus in its own pot. Each one grew taller, thicker, and more lustrous. Then, this past Spring, the same miracle occurred. Around each of the now fully formed babies, a new circle of pods pushed through the soil and started to grow. The seven pods which I separated from the parent plants have, in turn, produced a total of 41 grandchildren cacti.
All of this has happened without any horticultural intervention on my part. The emergence and growth of the new plants was the result of the sun, soil, and the small quantity of water I provide each plant with once a week in the Summer months. I find the entire process miraculous. There is a parallel that exists between this cactus (and many other cactus species) and human beings. Each of us, through our daily existence and travels through life, influence the environment around us, in the very soil in which we are rooted, and the people with whom we share it.
Depending on our life, the circle may be small, perhaps four or five colleagues, neighbours, family members, or it may run into hundreds. The size of the circle does not matter, but the nature of the impact we have is vitally important to our happiness, self-esteem, and spiritual worth. It is, in my experience, a daily choice. Next week cannot be predicted or determined by what I decide today.
Only today can.
So here is the decision. What is it that we are sending into this shared environment, and spreading to the circle around us? Is it kindness, hope, or knowledge? Or is the vibrational and tangible energy we send out into our environment emanated by greed, superiority, aggression, fear, sarcasm, and self-righteousness? In this regard, there is a strong distinction between a human individual and the cactus plant. Each of my Echinopsis plants draws from the soil only the minerals required for its own survival, and only the water it needs. Enough is left over for the baby plants around it. The cactus does not have the characteristic shown by many, typically those in business or politics, that it is essential to grab as much as possible for yourself. That strange attribute is unique to the homo sapiens species.
And so, each new day, a decision is to be made…What type of cactus will I be producing today?