For the past few years I have had a strong calling to work with a herb included in my original Materia Medica lessons in the 1980’s but since almost disappeared from dispensaries and practice.
Night Blooming Selenecerius or Cactus grandiflorus is a plant whose medicine may be employed in functional disturbances of the heart, especially when arising from the nervous system. The Eclectic physicians also used Cactus in structural disorders of the heart, including valve issues. The peculiar symptom associated with Cactus is found in the homeopathic Materia Medica - a feeling of constriction as though an iron band is wrapped around the chest (or other organ).
Early last year, after much searching, I managed to locate 4 small plants. I bought them all and then shipped them half way around the country. I found a spot for them on my back verandah where I could keep a close eye on them.
I had been instructed by the grower not to transplant them until they were crowded in the tiny pots I received them in - this made it easy to keep them close, and like a voyeur I watched them transform from childhood to adolescence.
To my delight, these eager youngsters seemed to love their position and climate - they grew rapidly, each plant putting on extensive new growth. They grew so well that in early Summer I was preparing to transplant them to a permanent location in the garden.
Then in early December my home burnt to the ground - a scene of complete obliteration.
My heart hurt when I retrieved the remains of these precious beings from the ashen rubble. The pots and plastic trellises which had held the tender growing lengths were melted, the plants were completely burnt - charred, and without a speck of green remaining. Their gangly arms were gone and just a few inert looking twigs remained.
I put the pots aside and almost forgot about them in the shadow days that followed.
A month later, when demolition was imminent, and the last opportunity for sifting the ash for shards of our former life was upon me, I noticed a tiny splash of green rising from the blackened soil in one of the pots - at least I had one plant to rebuild with….. and I was in awe of the regenerative capacity of Gaia.
Just one month before the fire, I had visited Gibraltar Range National Park - a spot I knew well - one of my favourite places for deep regenerative respites from work. Passing by on the way to teach a workshop on the Great Dividing Range, gave an opportunity to check in. I had not visited since the uncontained wildfires of Summer 2019-2020 had devastated the National Park as I did not feel I could contain the grief I felt for this area.
In contrast to the devastation I expected, this visit allowed me to really understand the resilience of Gaia.
The counterbalance of the bursts of red that were the blooming Gibraltar Waratahs, against the blackened landscape, and the flushes of green new growth, were captivating.
Sitting with the Waratahs at that time, I learned from them that their gift to us is dignified, persistent resilience in the face of obliteration - exactly what I would need one month later, when I too experienced decimation by fire.
A few weeks later all but one of the Cactus plants had revealed their persistent resilience - the capacity to survive what appeared to be complete obliteration. Now nearly a year on, they have phoenixed from the ashes and are thriving in a new pot in a new home and I am again listening to how they wish to share their medicine. I have planted several small cuttings with the hope that this medicine may be shared and restored to its rightful place in our dispensaries.