Nodding Trillium

Freedom is strangely ephemeral.  It is something like breathing; one only becomes acutely aware of its importance when one is choking. 
- William E. Simon

Late September, deep in the natural woodlands of the Norway Valley, Mother Nodding Trillium watched as all her young seeds lay strewn across the moist forest floor from her now empty ruby-red berry.

Eager ants were busily collecting these seeds and scampering off in all directions.

Natasha, the young Nodding Trillium seed realized that she was suddenly suspended on the back of a huge ant, who completely ignoring her screams, continued to mutter to itself in a language that Natasha could not understand. 

After devouring the elaiosome covering Natasha, the female ant departed, leaving Natasha shivering with fear in the ant’s nutrient rich waste deposit.

Natasha knew she had traveled far away from her mother and lay barely covered on the forest floor, all through the long autumn and winter, too sad to make any changes.

Spring came and Natasha lay on the soft moist ground still afraid to come to the surface. The rain fell often and the raindrops soothed her aching heart.  She made up her mind she would have to stay and began germinating by growing roots, still refusing to come to the surface.

One year passed, and Natasha’s cotyledon became photosynthetic and could tolerate light but Natasha remained below the ground taking and taking from the bounty of the forest.

On the third spring with a little courage, Natasha peeped from the forest floor that was now her home and raised her stalk in the air and produced her first leaf.

For the first time, she saw the beauty above the ground but did not appreciate it.  Mother ant had left her in a place where deer or students hiking in the valley could not reach her.

Seven springs after mother ant’s feast, Natasha had grown beautiful on the outside with three big leaves but was bitter on the inside from her experiences.

Nature took its course and Natasha the nodding selfish “three-ness” lily plant began attracting insect pollinators but was bothered by the thought of having to feed the insects.

Without her consent, Natasha’s stalk continued to change and she produced flowers with three petals and three sepals, six stamens, three stigmas and a three-celled ovary.

Finally, one day in late April, a bright red berry with three ribs appeared, replacing the three-petal flower.  Natasha grew angrier and angrier while the berry grew redder and redder, becoming large and swollen to capacity.

Every day, ants would crawl up and down her stalk towards the ruby-red berry, take a sniff and climb back down.  Natasha choking with anger, refused to even breathe out. 

Natasha had benefited from the forest and the creatures that fed and nurtured her for her whole life but she still believed that no one cared about her.  

A tall spruce tree standing nearby seeing Natasha’s dilemma, quietly explained.

 “The forest survives on the universal law of giving and receiving, we are provided with a home to live and grow.  The ant that brought you here was kind enough to hide you in a safe place.  Now it’s your turn to return the favor to all the ants that will spread your seed, so that you will live in the heart of every seed forever.”

Natasha finally understood.  Bursting with pride at her value, Natasha nodded her head and the beautiful ruby-red berry split open and clusters of elaiosome covered seeds spilled onto the wet forest floor, for the ants to get food for their larvae and disperse Natasha’s seeds.

The smell of the berries was warm and inviting.  The air was permeated with an oily scent rich in nutrients like proteins, lipids and sugars. 

Natasha the Nodding Trillium was now free, she had taken more than six summers to complete her cycle of breathing.

[Coaching Questions]

  • How are you in balance of giving and receiving?
  • What happens if you inhale so much and never exhale?
  • What happens if you exhale so much and never inhale?
  • Who are the ants in your life?
  • What’s the lesson in this life challenge?
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