Cactus flower


There’s a peculiar window in my home office. It’s high off the ground, about five feet or so, and goes up almost to the ceiling. It’s too high for me to see anything out of it when I sit at my desk, or even when I stand, except for a square of sky. My office was my son Jake’s room when he was smaller. (Now he’s a big football lineman, and can barely turn around in the room.) And when he was smaller, for some reason, I got the notion to buy some cactus plants and put them on the windowsill of the high window in his room. I think I was looking for plants that wouldn’t require much care. Anyway, we bought half a dozen or so tiny little cactus plants–he has always loved buying plants with me–and set them on the sill.

They’re still there today. I used to enjoy looking at them when I came in the back gate from walking the dog each night, seeing them silhouetted against there like castle towers. I water them about every month or so. They don’t get any bigger. I think one of them may actually be dead, but with a cactus, it doesn’t much matter anyway.

Most of the time, I don’t pay any attention to my cactuses. But once a year, as faithfully as the changing of the seasons, I notice that one of them, a tiny barrel cactus barely three inches tall, is flowering. It gets three or four petite white flowers atop its barrel, and they last for a really long time. Then they gradually fade, and that’s it for another year.

There’s a movie out right now called Precious, about a 350-pound 16-year-old girl who’s emotionally and physically abused by her mother and sexually abused by her father, by whom she’s pregnant. I’ve been listening to some interviews with the director, Lee Daniels, on NPR lately. While the subject matter seems bleak, it’s a movie I want to see. From what Daniels says, it seems to be a reminder that the human soul can be a lot like a cactus flower–surviving on hardly any nourishment, lying dormant for long stretches, but so tough and resilient that it rises and blooms despite the roughest odds.

I wonder what my cactuses would be like if I took better care of them?

Photo of barrel cactus with buds by D. Gustafson.


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