I have lived in seven different states scattered across this country, including all four corners and the middle. The first full year I live in a place is always the most intriguing. I love experiencing a new place as it transitions through the seasons: discovering what flowers bloom in the springtime, watching the water levels of rivers and lakes rise and drop, finding the best patches of fall foliage, and witnessing the first snow flakes fall from the sky.
I have lived in Nevada for 6 months and this is my first autumn in a Southwestern state. I know the area does not support many deciduous trees so I had low expectations for fall color. However, the sagebrush caught me by surprise. These usually mundane green- gray plants that cover our valleys and hillsides are now exploding with brilliant yellow blossoms.
Sagebrush is prevalent throughout Nevada and it is, not surprisingly, the state’s flower. Driving hours through monotonous sagebrush valleys can make the plant seem ordinary and boring, but they are actually pretty fascinating. Sagebrush contains certain compounds that deter consumption from animals. Pronghorn are the only large herbivore that can tolerate substantial amounts of it. What is really interesting is the plants’ ability to communicate with each other. If one sagebrush plant is getting eaten, it will release chemicals to warn other nearby plants. Those plants will then increase their quantities of the repellent compounds.
Sagebrush isn’t good to eat (they are toxic to the liver and digestive system in humans), but the Native Americans still found them to be quite useful. It was used externally for many purposes, including preventing infections and relieving head aches and other body aches. There are not many resources available while living off the land in the desert, so if one plant surrounds you for hundreds of miles in every direction, I guess you are bound to find a use for it.
I have driven through areas with sagebrush before moving here, but it must never have been during the early autumn. I am just loving these cheerful, abundant yellow flowers, glowing brightly in the sunshine against the big blue sky. They are the perfect welcoming committee for autumn and I am eager to experience all the nuances of this season in my new home.
Maybe there is something to be learned from the lowly sagebrush. Something so common and so drab can, for a short time, become something beautiful. God created everything for a purpose, especially his children. We may feel depleted from the daily grind, feeling that we have nothing extraordinary to offer. Our spirits may feel akin to the sagebrush- a tumultuous mix of toxic and medicinal. However, never doubt that God has a plan for you. Even the sagebrush can provide soothing relief and a bit of cheer in a harsh world. We will all have our day in the sun, an opportunity to blossom and live out the purpose that God has called us for.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.