How CatTails Comix got its Name
The name for CatTails Comix all started with the cattail plant.
Cattails are funny to me, the way they look like hot dogs on a stick and how by the end of summer, they start to resemble marshmallows left too long over a campfire, bloated, and bubbling off, fluffy bunches of seeds taking to the wind.
I knew very little of cattails besides these small observations. So, when I read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a book that weaves indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants with stories from Robin’s life, I was blown away by their many uses.
In the chapter “sitting in a circle” Robin takes her students from the ethnobotany class to the marsh to get to know the cattail plant. The students are tepid to start, but with the guidance of indigenous practices they start harvesting leaves to weave into sleeping mats, pulling up rhizomes (roots) to roast and eat, and as the adventure wears on, they start joking and having fun with each other.
Reading along, I felt like I was in class with Robin. I canoed out with them, stomped through the mud, and watched as the students learned new things about themselves. I have always thought cattails were fun looking plants, but now, I felt their usefulness as a food, medicine, material for rope and mat, as well as habitat for creatures living in the marshlands.
It was so surprising to me that the many uses of the cattail plant had been unknown to me until now, it felt like they were so important and integral to who the plant was. It made me think of myself, and the many times I felt that the qualities I hold were overlooked at first glance.
Because what the mainstream culture in the US tries to make us believe, is that our worth lies in what can be observed from the surface. Whether that looks like material wealth or matching the popular aesthetic of the times, (young, white, skinny) basing value on surface level attributes leaves little room for the gifts we hold inside.
Yet the cattail reminds me that our overlooked gifts are pure magic. They are revealed in moments of necessity not extravagance. They are valuable because they support the creatures around them, they are there for our mutual survival. The cattail’s true value isn’t from how it looks or how it dominates other plants, its value is in the way it supports itself and those around it.
It is with the quiet brilliance of the cattail in mind that I birthed a realization.
The natural world has not only provided all the materials we need to physically survive, but has also, provided the wisdom for how we might move through this world.
A wisdom that is always emerging through my many forays into and with all that roots, grows, flows and flies.
I hope you enjoy CatTails in its silliness and depth, an homage to the wondrous cattail plant.