Aloes are amongst the best defended plants I know. Their thick spiny leaves and bitter sap safeguard their watery reserves through the long dry summers. These defences make aloes look like really tough characters. But the aloe plant I sat with the other day told me a different story. Like many of us, its prickly exterior protects an inner vulnerability.
I learnt from aloe about the importance of boundaries. By protecting its leaves, aloe is free to give generously of its nectar throughout the winter when there is a huge demand for this high-energy food. It’s the same with us – healthy boundaries protect us from feeling exploited and burning out, and enable us to share our special gifts more sustainably with others.
You look at me – assume I’m tough,
able to survive a drought.
Thick of skin and sharp of spine, but
you don’t know me from inside-out.
Protected by my saw-like leaves
and bitter sap is a tender heart;
I fear unbridled neediness
will fast deplete what I can impart.
But look again – in my ample arms
I cradle buds like lime-green cones.
Seasons of flowers, dripping sweet,
this is the gift I can sustain.