Sitting squatted with my two feet planted firm in the dry grass, I ran my fingers gently over the miniscule leaves. With the magic touch of my finger the small plant that grew between the grass retracted. It skittishly folded itself into a neat little green bundle, as if surprised by the sudden human interaction.
I must have spent many hours like this as a child. Growing up, these magical plants were all over our garden in Africa. Only many years later I learned that their proper name wasn’t ‘aanraakplantjes’ (little touch plants), like my sister and I used to call them, but ‘mimosa pudica’. It’s one of the many small gifts on this planet, which fills you with joy and amazement. You cannot stop touching the small leaves fascinatedly while wondering how a plant can just move itself by a gentle touch like that.
Two years back I received the seeds to grow them from my friend Anne as a birthday gift. That’s when you know someone really knows you well. I tried to grow my own mimosa pudica, but the plant didn’t survive, even though I never treated a plant with more care. So you can imagine my joy when I came across this sweet childhood memory while I was travelling through the tropical Cambodia and Laos.
I had biked through the town of Siem Reap in the early morning darkness to see the sunrise at Ankor Wat. As I had seen the burning orange ball of fire climb the sky, I had walked through the majestic entrance of the ancient temple complex. I climbed the stairs, gaining height with every step. Somewhere inside one of the courtyards, the tiny plant had suddenly grabbed my attention. In the midst of the old, stone walls, it was screaming: ‘hello, remember me? Come and play with me!’. Enthusiastically and full of joy I did what I had done so many hours as a kid in my front yard.
I made a short video of it. The quality is not fantastic, but I would love to share this with you in case you haven’t seen this little wondrous plant yet.
How can you not be utterly amazed by how wonderful our world is? We live in a truly magical place. Sometimes you nearly trample the most precious thing underneath your feet, without even realizing the wonders you are walking over.