Thursday, July 14, 2016


I suppose there are a lot of ways to define beauty. That makes sense, because beauty really only exists in the mind of the observer, and so far as we know, the only observers there are are human beings.

Think of beautiful people, places and things. Children, the Grand Canyon, flowers. Now think of the snotty-faced, whining child; the canyon as a weary traveler with a destination on the other side would see it; the flower as a field of opium poppies guarded by terrorists.

These things are what they are, as with the rest of the universe. They do not become something else when our perception of them shifts.

Understanding this might be one of the secrets to genuine happiness. I know it is for me.

The Plains Pricklypear is ubiquitous here. It's part of nature's ecosystem. It's green and spiny and grows low to the ground, and if you ever venture onto the prairie in sneakers and drag your toes with abandon you will soon be pulling painful pricklypear spines from your toes.

For the rancher, the pricklypear has little immediate value. It's not cow food, and the tiny, sharper-than-needles spines cause slow leaks in your tires. Those spines can also cause festering abscesses in livestock.

In the spring, though, they flower, and the yellow wash of pricklypear blossoms is a fine sight to behold. They are at home here on the prairie, at home in a way that people will never be. They can take no shelter from summer's broiling sun or winter's killing cold. They need moisture to survive, yet they survive the harshest drought. They are supposed to be here, and they are here, and their presence shouts glad tidings of a healthy and bountiful ecosystem.

You can make jelly from the fruit, too. I've never done so; perhaps I will this year.

I've pulled pricklypear spines from my toes, treated abscesses they've caused, spent a small fortune on repairing slow leaks in tires.

I've also enjoyed the beauty of their flowers, the beauty of their existence, the beauty that is nature doing nature's thing.


  1. Ouch.

    But beautiful in its own way just the same.

    1. Thanks Sarge. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes in the toe.

  2. I have always wondered if they were edible. Do let us know how the experiment goes.