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Gary Nabhan asks for spiritual guidance from an arborescent cactus

Gary: Greetings, master.

Prickly Pear: Greetings. Bless you, my child.

Gary:  I am here to ask you to tell me the secrets that have made you so upstanding, so unflappable.

Prickly Pear: Well, I‘m not so sure have always been UP standing. When I was younger, my prickly pads sort of zigzagged their way above the desert floor. And have you noticed how much they look like pancakes/ I would say that they are unflappable, Jack.

Gary: My name is Gary, not Jack.

Prickly Pear: Names are simply temporary labels. Those botanists keep changing my species name, probably because my parents were so promiscuous.

Gary: Well, let me ask you for your advice in another way. How do you survive so many stresses: drought, heat, herbivores, fires and floods without looking as if they ever phase you?

Prickly Pear: My secrets to a steady, resilient life are thorniness and slime. My thorns not only repel most browsers, they also shade my sun-sensitive skin from solar radiation. And the slime in my pads? Well, that helps me hold moisture inside my tissues even during the longest drought. Thorniness and slime: those are the secrets of desert living.

Gary: Oh, thanks, but this just won’t work for a human. Think I‘d better get out of the desert and go sit under a banyan tree in a tropical rain-forest.

Prickly Pear: That’s your choice. But watch out for crashing branches, foot rot and fire ants!  I could never live in such a crowded place.


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