“In this moment, everything is sacred.”
― Ariel Books
I remember the moment so clearly. I was standing in the gardens at Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. It was a beautiful, bright sunny day with the warm sun shining from the blue sky. We had wandered around admiring the roses and the small circular fountain with the water lilies floating in it. There were impressive cactuses and some of them were blooming with the most impossible, beautiful flowers. The history of the place was tremendous and the peace that lingered there was mine for the taking. We were ready to leave when I saw a tree. This tree, oddly enough, had spikes growing on it. Pow! Realization hit me. “Oh my gosh”, I thought, “even the trees do not want to be eaten!” I had always known, of course that plants defend themselves with spines, and of course that animals and insects have many kinds of defenses such as tasting bad, being poisonous, running fast, camouflage, living in trees, living under the ground, spraying smelly scent or teeth and horns. But it had never been so clear to me that all living things want to survive and avoid being eaten as it was in that moment.
My mind started wandering to the foods that I would be able to eat without killing the host. Carrots? No sir, I would have to uproot the plant! Ditto for most of the vegetables. I decided that most fruits could be eaten without killing the parent plant as long as I left enough so that the plants could reproduce themselves. I didn’t know what to think about the grains. Would they be something that I could collect from a mature plant without killing the plant in the process? I could eat eggs, honey (if I cared for the bees so as not to kill them by taking all of their food), and dairy products. Not too much remained.
I thought about the Native American beliefs about Mother Earth and the respect for all living things, and of only taking with respect that which you need to survive. I left San Juan feeling sad that in order for me to live other things have to die. Death is well and truly bound to life.