Twisted, spiky, almost grotesque appearing trees proliferate in the high desert where my new granddaughter lives. Mormon settlers named them when they spotted the trees in their migration west. To them, the trees appeared as the biblical character Joshua with his arms outstretched, urging them on. Joshua Trees can only grow in a narrow range of elevations in California’s Mojave Desert and in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, alongside the Saguaro cactus.
Regarded as a treasure and with a national forest named after them, there are serious penalties for removing Joshua Trees from public land. But the property where my granddaughter lives looked naked and forlorn, the only lot for miles around without a single Joshua Tree. The trees had been removed several years ago, before her mother bought the house, and her father found their remains buried in the back yard before she was born.
As a person who looks for opportunities to celebrate life with rituals, the baby blessing of my one-month old granddaugher seemed a made-to-order occasion I couldn’t resist. And the lack of Joshua Trees at the baby’s house seemed to call to me as a condition we could remedy with a ritual. I enlisted the baby’s other grandmother who had baby Joshua Trees on her property and she said she was willing to bring them to plant during our grandparents’ ceremony.
Restoring native plants to the land seemed a worthy way to mark our granddaughter’s birth. And Joshua Trees demonstrate that, just as with a human baby; there is a delicate reliance on relationships in one’s surroundings. In this case a yucca moth must assist the plant to pollinate, and the tree provides food for her young who are born in its flowers.
With songs and laughter, we planted one Joshua Tree in the back yard and one in the front, while spelling out our visions for the world we want our granddaughter to grow up in. “I see the world as a place of peace for all peoples.” “I see girls and women of all ages, being treated with dignity and respect in all countries around the globe.”
We did our part to encourage a playful world as we juggled colorful scarves singularly and together in anticipation of the time Kyra Joy will be big enough to come and play with us. And as Krya Joy and the tree grow up together, we will all be reminded that the land, the trees, and, we the people, are all related.