Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Christmas Cactus in the Kitchen Window


***
The Telling that Changes Everything III. December 18, 2011

 The Christmas cactus in the kitchen window
snuck up on me. I did notice that its
floppy stems were putting out buds at the
tips, but suddenly on this cold December
morning, with frost heavy on the chickweed
and making the feathery weeds enchanting
in their hoarfrost bonnets, it achieves
full bloom. It gets summer heat and wintry
blasts since it faces west. The cold is as
necessary as the sun to its health and
well-being. There was Ruth Pope, years
ago, whom I visited with my baby girl,
who took me into her dark bedroom
to see her cactus blooms. Mine lives
and blooms in a lighted room, but it
does need that cold. The slender,
many-layered, deep pink blossoms
seem far too exotic for my simple life,
yet here it lives, sandwiched between
the compost bucket with its eggshells
sticking out and the cobwebs on the
other side, but nothing in the created
order looks less dismayed. Pink
is such an exultant color. I do have
my moments of pink, or call them
heightened consciousness, when
the words take off, or the sky has
streaks of yellow and rose after the
sun has swum below the horizon.
Most days are essentially ordinary,
following my daily routine, reminding
myself of chores and things to finish
before nightfall. Some mornings I
feel disconnected even from this
ordinary world, like being up too
high and unable to get my feet firmly
on the ground. Proust said, as we age,
the stilts we walk on get taller until
we can no longer balance, and then
we fall and die. The stilt consciousness
passes once I’ve fed the hens, made a
fire, eaten toast, drunk my lemon-ginger tea.
There’s another state, the one I hate the
most, of fear. So many things I never
thought about, simply doing them,
risky or not. Now I have to summon
courage for a late night drive or before I
venture by car along unfamiliar roads.
Something in me that once was tough and
unconcerned, now quails, imagines
being lost, alone, cold, far from home.
I have to remind myself that I’m canny,
that people have always helped me,
that I may be scared, but "inside fear
is courage," as Mindi wrote in her book.
True, I am rewarded for getting myself
down from those stilts and back on
terra firma.  I write poems. My
Christmas cactus blooms.
.

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