I was in the Arizona desert with Pa’Ris’Ha Taylor, admiring the plants and trees natural to the area. Coming from the north, the desert environment was completely new to me and I felt like a novice discovering the world for the very first time. The Junipine trees smelled especially fragrant and I thought it would be wonderful to collect a few of the waxy leaves for a fresh potpourri.
I stepped up to a tree and began tearing off the leaves. They were quite tough and sinewy and did not let go of the branches easily. Pa’Ris’Ha came around the tree and looked at me. My hands were getting sticky from the sap. “The leaves won’t come off the branches,” I told her.
She smiled and answered, “Think about what you are doing. If you were that tree and someone was trying to pull your fingers off, how would you feel? Would you allow them to take your fingers?”
Her comment was surprising. It was not something I had considered, but when I did the answer was obvious. “I would not like it at all.”
Pa’Ris’Ha suggested I approach the tree with respect and remember that it was alive, just like me. She mentioned that many of the native people in the area used some form of offering or exchange when asking for something. This made sense to me. In studying business success I already knew there must be an exchange in order to have a gain. She pulled a small leather pouch filled with finely ground corn from her bag and told me the local people used it to make their offerings. She motioned for me to take some and offer it to the tree, which I did. It seemed a bit strange.
I paused for a moment and had to admit I was feeling quite uncomfortable. It was evident to me that Pa’Ris’Ha was accustomed to talking to everything around her and I actually admired her for the way she communicated openly with everything in her environment.
Taking a deep breath, I introduced myself to the tree as though I was meeting a new friend. I actually told it my name and then looked around to see if anyone was watching. The words “goofy” and “foolish” popped into my mind. Pa’Ris’Ha’s smile caught my eye. She was looking at me with absolute sincerity, so I told myself to just get over it.
Mustering up some courage, I explained aloud to the tree that I wanted to make a beautiful mixture of fragrant plants from the desert to be reminded of my journey there. I asked if it would be all right to have a few of its leaves. I reached up to pinch off a leaf and to my delight several fell off the branch, landing in the palm of my hand. “Whoo hoo!” I exclaimed. “Look at that!” The amazement I was feeling pushed away the embarrassment.
What I learned from that experience is that everything in the Earth has a life and deserves to be treated with respect. All of Nature is willing to cooperate with our needs, but we need to show it cooperation by communicating our intentions. This applies to everything and everyone. Communication and respect are the keys to living well and harmoniously. No need to be shy about it – these are effective tools.