Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

cactus pondering

Arizona's state bird is the cactus wren. Cactus wrens nest in huge saguaro cactus, or in even larger cardon cactus. It always seems a shame, to me, the idea of a wren hollowing out a nest in a cactus. But the wren knows it's all part of the way things work, and not a space for pristine fantasies about unpermeated cactus.

I also like the idea of the Queen of the Night cactus. Each flower blooms at night--one September night of the year. A moment of glory, and each bloom is gone. I think so many of us bloom rarely, but beautifully, and require a bit of attention in non-obvious moments to be seen at our best. In South Africa they don't even like the idea of the cactus, as it is an invasive weed there. We all face certain social settings in which people want to uproot us and replace us with Crown of Thorns.

I've been reading the excellent Chronicle Books book "Cactus and Succulents", by Mimi Luebbermann, with photos by Faith Etchermeyer. I liked a quote on Ms. Etchermeyer's website, "I’ve got a bag full of equipment, but I work by feeling". Her work in the cactus book shows a lot of cactus fellow-feeling. To me, the cactus is the ultimate plant--impervious to anything but too much care. Ms. Luebbermann suggests that one always know the genus and species when going to the cactus store--else one might get two completely different plants, both going by the name "hens and chicks". I myself subscribe to the theory that one should shop for cacti not based on genus, species or even common name, but on the basis of whether it makes one feel good inside to see its three dollar three inch pot magnificence. I'm reminded of an old Beth Gylys poem, but the metaphor is too inexact to bear repeating.

If I could write a non-fiction book, I think I'd write about fifty things that cost less than five dollars but save suburban lives. Three dollar cacti, one dollar kites, a can of old-fashioned shoe polish, and a kazoo.
I want to set up a tank, like a fish tank with no glass sides, to grow cactus under fluorescent light.

Meanwhile, my thoughts are in Mississippi, and people taping their refrigerator doors shut for easy removal of the spoiled food. I'm eager for people to find normalcy, however normalcy may be defined. I was struck by the map in USA Today, which plotted the FEMA requests by state and city. Other than the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, cities, Houston and, to a lesser extent, Atlanta and Dallas, the diaspora seemed nearly completely nationwide. We all live in the places which could tomorrow become Biloxi. I hope for the imminent time when
people live lives which facilitate three dollar cacti and one dollar kites.

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