I've been feeling quite prickly lately. Odd. Conflicted. Hard to fit. Even ugly, sometimes.
I've been spending as much time as I can in my grove (which isn't much time, at all, but some is better than none), and I noticed that the place where I sit is surrounded with prickly plants: Oregon grape, thistles, mullein, and some very thorny weeds.
They are all beautiful in their own way. I've always loved mullein and thistle and am developing a deep fondness for Oregon grape.
I touched the plants and even the prick didn't hurt that much. I thought, Maybe it's not so bad to be prickly. Maybe I can still be beautiful, and maybe my spikes and thorns can help me stay strong and protected.
There is a legend in Scotland, one of my ancestral lands, that the Norse invaders tried to surprise the Scots in battle during the night - when one of them stepped on a thistle and screamed in pain, alerting the Scotsman to the attackers' presence. So there's some value to being prickly, hmmm?
And beauty, as well. I think thistles are stunning. And Oregon grape is so smooth and shiny and boldly green.
But then there are all the ways that we see our prickly bits as more severe than they really are. We see them as shutting us away from others. We LET them shut us away from others. We judge ourselves based on thorns that aren't really quite so sharp as we fear.
My favorite fairy tale heroine, Briar Rose, has this prickliness to her. She pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and falls into a magical sleep, protected in her castle by a wall of thorny brambles. Though there are dozens of symbolic interpretations of this story, I have often thought that her encounter with the spinning wheel represented her first true encounter with herself - and her inability to face her prickly side at such a formative age. At first, those thorny brambles protect her as her soul matures in a sacred sleep, as she begins to process the prickles. But eventually, they come to shut out the light of day. They come to shut out the love (not necessarily romantic) that is awaiting her. She has to learn to love her own thorns.
Like all things in life, there is no one way to look at our prickliness. It's good. It's bad. It protects us. It harms us.
A divine paradox, just like the rose. So beautiful, and just a little dangerous. Just a little painful.