what succulents have taught me about resilience and conservation

 

About 3 years ago, when my girls were still in the baby and toddler phases, I found myself living in constant fear. Irrational fear, fear of the ridiculous, out of control things, along with a fear of the destruction of the planet that we were leaving for our children to deal with. And I missed the feeling I got from teaching others to care about our world and all its inhabitants, working as an educator at places like Monterey Bay Aquarium and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. I missed feeling connected and feeling like I was taking action toward making things better – and so I got sad and very very anxious.


For anyone else out there who has lived with or still lives with Generalized (or PostPartum) Anxiety Disorder, you know this is not just an “I’m feeling a bit down and worried lately” feeling. For me, and perhaps millions of others, this form of anxiety takes over mind, body, and spirit. From the physical heart racing, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, ringing in ears, a constant state of flight mode. To the mental spirals of “why did Is, what-ifs, how could Is” and all the shame that wells up, crushing the spirit from the weight of those thoughts. Then there was insomnia, lack of appetite, lack of focus and propensity to burst into tears at the slightest provocation. So yeah, I needed some help, like immediately.


And then came succulents (well along with therapy and some pretty amazing books). I mean I know that sounds ridiculous, but as soon as I started playing with succulents and making botanical art, I found so much of my mind freed from the shackles of my anxiety – I felt peaceful and purposeful.

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RACHAEL COHEN is the creator & owner of INFINITE SUCCULENT, a plant art styling and educational service in San Diego, Ca.

Through her plant art and styling services, as well as her workshops, Rachael connects and engages her clients with the natural world, while helping them achieve the botanical atmosphere of their dreams!

 
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Succulents, these adorable and resilient plants that are just so varied, send me messages of hope and resilience every single day. I often see the amazing ability that succulents have to regenerate, heal and just flat out survive, and I get so inspired. I think about how our entire planet has that ability to heal and regenerate. Like a succulent stem, tossed aside, begins to sprout new roots and leaves, our damaged ecosystems can heal and repair if we would just back off a little and give them the chance!


And thankfully we can look to science to see that this true: take for example the concept of a “marine protected area”, which are areas of the ocean where exploitations (fishing, drilling etc) are limited and species and habitats are protected. Time and time again science has found that when large areas of the ocean are protected, life returns and often even flourishes.


Take, for example, Monterey, CA  where a history of overfishing and resource exploitation left ecosystems almost barren of inhabitants. Even back in the 70s, Monterey Bay was almost devoid of much of the wildlife it is now so well known for. Yet when fishing became regulated, marine mammals became protected and certain activities were limited, healthy ecosystems, like kelp forests, deep reefs, and wetlands, began to thrive once more. Now Monterey Bay is world-renowned for it’s amazing and healthy ocean habitats and inhabitants.


Anyway, I digress into my other passion which is marine education and conservation…but back to succulents. My journey playing with succulents has evolved from a form of meditation, therapy and yes even medicine for me – to a passion that has become a full-time career! I never anticipated where this journey would take me, and I truly feel that succulents saved my soul and sanity at a time when I was so stuck. Well actually, succulents were the tools through which I figured out how to save myself.

Well actually, succulents were the tools through which I figured out how to save myself.

 

There are days where I still feel stuck, heavy with the weight of the world’s damage and despair ever in my mind and heart. Days where I live with a fear of the world we are living in and leaving for our children and those still to come. Yet playing with these plants brought, and continues to bring, mindfulness and serenity back into my life. Succulents helped me rediscover my voice, at a time when I felt so stifled. My voice about what these beautiful, strong, resilient, and unique plants can teach us about conserving, protecting and ultimately healing our planet and maybe even ourselves too.
 

Thank you for visiting,

 

Rachael