When we were on our holiday recently, we drove past entire paddocks of the plant Echium plantagineum; beautiful thick carpets of purple. It looked as though it had been planted deliberately, and was a sight to behold. However, for all its beauty, it is a very invasive weed, and those beautiful, unintentionally purple-filled paddocks are often loathed by those who own them.
Millions of hectares of land in the Southern part of Australia, from Western Australia to New South Wales, are covered in this plant. The total annual cost to Australian farmers in lost productivity, control costs and wool contamination is hundreds of millions of dollars. It is an aggressive plant, taking over from preferred plants and yet providing nothing to farmers in return. It is poisonous to any animal that does not have a ruminant digestive system. So, it will kill a horse. Sheep and cattle can graze on it for some time, although prolonged grazing is harmful.
It is perhaps understandable that this plant is known as Paterson’s Curse.
A fact that I found interesting is that in drought stricken parts of Australia, Echium plantagineum is known as Salvation Jane. When everything else has died off, it can be a source of food for grazing animals (with a ruminant digestive system). It can’t be used in a prolonged manner, however it can be used for a short time when there is nothing else.
As we were driving past the beautiful yet loathed paddocks of Paterson’s Curse recently, it occurred to me that how this plant is seen is all about interpretations. When people are trying to earn a living and this plant is making that difficult to do, it is seen as a curse. When the drought hits and there is nothing else and people’s livelihood is at stake, it can be seen as a salvation. Neither interpretation is right or wrong. They are simply different interpretations, being made by people who are observing situations based on their own moods, emotions and experience.
There are, I think, some parallels between this plant and life.
We observe situations from the way of being that we are in at any given moment, and from there, we take some form of action. Sometimes, we don’t even realise the interpretations that we are making or the actions that we are taking; they just happen, totally transparent to us. However, if we are not aware that there are multiple ways in which a situation can be interpreted, and we are not aware that our own interpretation is not necessarily the only interpretation, we run the risk of inadvertently taking action that is not useful for us.
When we acknowledge that our interpretations are simply interpretations and not a truth, paying attention to them, and noticing the action that we are taking from them, we can determine what is and isn’t serving us and we can then make a choice about how we respond. This, I think, can be incredibly powerful. It can also be freeing, as we start to see possibilities that we were once unable to see.
Points to Ponder…
The invitation is to think of a situation that may not be going as you would like it to.
- What interpretations are you making?
- What interpretations are you seeing as the only interpretation?
- What interpretations may be more useful?
As a leadership and life coach, I help others to see new possibilities. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.