As Strong as This?

Yesterday, I examined the cattails by a beautiful pond.  I’ve always studied cattails.  As a child, I learned how the cattails hid the nests of mallards and geese.  I discovered how you could walk between the stalks, nearly sinking into the marshy bank of the Potomac River, and find turtles as small as your thumbnail and bullfrogs the size of a dinner plate.

But I learned never to take a cattail inside the house.  The seeds would disperse everywhere.  So you left them alone–those tall soldiers guarding the ponds and rivers–and observed how, in late summer, great fluffy parachutes of seeds launched out over the water.  They could overtake a whole habitat.  Nothing could come against them. 

I remember this, and I suddenly realize what the cattail represents:  explosive, invasive, unmanageable, impenetrable growth.

You can’t stop a cattail.  The roots go deep and store massive amounts of nutrients.  The tip of the plant constitutes innumerable seeds carried far and wide by wind.  Bad weather simply aids the dispersal.  A flood only makes the roots stronger.  A drought just means the seeds leave sooner.

You can’t stop a cattail.  That’s what I’m thinking about as my time in Colorado comes to an end next week.  It hasn’t been the summer I imagined.  We’ve been more sick than healthy and more challenged than refreshed.  But you can’t stop a cattail.  Hardship can only aid our growth. 

Journal:  Do I believe I am as strong and fruitful as a cattail?

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  1. I'm out to control cattails, and all other aquatic weeds. The cattails of Lake Chad are the driving force in the expansion of the Sahara. The name of the process is Hydrosere, and it is out of control worldwide. It can be stopped, but it takes a self sustaining (profitable) effort. Fortunately, cattails are one of the most exploitable plants on Earth. They are excellent as a food source, raw biofuel in HUGE quantities, and an excellent source of fiber. Cattail sloughs, that should be lakes, are a major part of the US “dustbowl” problem. Other weeds, like water hyacinth and Phragmites, are getting the headlines now, but humanity has a battle to fight with the cattail. It will turn the whole planet into a desert if we let it.

  2. Did you know you can also eat most parts of the cattails? The green shoots when they're young, the pollen (think: pancake batter!), the roots, like potatoes, and the head, like corn on the cob (when cooked properly and at the right time of growth). They're hearty in waste areas though, so make sure any cattail you try isn't stage three of your local sewage treatment plant.