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  • My fingers dig into the cool earth as I imagine this one plant growing, growing beyond belief. My fingers scrape against the dead grass left over from winter and I pluck out each one tenderly, so as not to pull away needed dirt. I see spring emerging as creatures stir. In Lakota culture, we look towards everything around us - plants, the trees, the seasons, the animals of the forest - as our relatives. Therefore, we never stop learning, even when others believe there is no lesson to be found. It is through my culture that I learned the importance of the natural world. I learned about the values of hardship and the fruits of labor. I learned about the value of failure, about how one can never learn from mistakes if they did not first fail at something.
    I learned these rules of planting from my Aunt Jolene. My grandmother and mother used to joke that my aunt could put anything into the ground and a plant would miraculously grow two or three days later. I didn’t realize at first why they said this but one spring day, I understood. My Aunt Jolene was planting daffodils and I watched her from afar, curious. Her copper skin glimmered in the sunshine and her crow black hair was pulled into a long, intricate braid. She looked at the ground, tenderly pulling away the unwanted grass and made a small hole for the flowers. There was a genuine and peaceful look that never left her eyes. She turned around suddenly and noticed me standing awkwardly to the side, my fingers twiddling nervously. She motioned towards me with one finger and pointed at the small pile of dirt that had collected at her feet. She smiled and grabbed a small, limpid flower that was barely alive. Its leaves were edged in brown and its slender green stem looked ready to break. My Aunt placed it into the ground.
    “No! That plant won’t grow!” I objected.
    But she smiled.
    I was young and naïve. I had belief that if something went wrong, I had to give up because what was the point in trying again when I would just fail? It was through my Aunt’s small and genuine gesture and her advice that I came to the realization of moving forward. That was all I could do in life was try my hardest, work until I could not work anymore, and then on the brink of exhaustion instead of giving up I had to keep going. If my hard work went to waste than it was only a matter of how strong I was about trying again. How determined I was to keep working towards my goal.
    To this day, I still remember my shock when that daffodil grew to be the biggest out of all of them.
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