My Christmas cactus bloomed between Thanksgiving and Solstice this year, at the end of a long fall semester, weighted down by pandemic and paper writing.
Each summer, I take Amtrak overnight from Chicago to New York state, and spend time with the childhood friend who introduced me to Unitarian Universalism. She and her husband live in the Finger Lakes, and he grows an extensive range of vegetables. She pickles, freezes and cooks everything. Most years, I pick raspberries and green beans daily while there. The plants earn their worth. Some summers ago, we spent an afternoon repotting her neglected indoor plants. We tossed a few into the compost, repotted what we could, and were indecisive about the final two, probably too far gone to revive. She gifted me with one, a withered cactus, that I brought back home on Amtrak, bagged, in my duffle bag.
The cactus summered outside my back door, wintered on my refrigerator, and sometimes near a heater in a classroom. The first winter, it flowered hesitantly from behind a curtain in my front room. It flowered in record-breaking cold temperatures the next winter, in a January school week, shut down in Arctic temperatures, and it did not flower at all last winter – but burst into blossom just before Easter, in the April stage of lockdown.
This summer I gave away most plants to neighbors as I prepared to move. My friends offered, miraculously, to drive through the pandemic to pick me up and transport me to Connecticut. Impulsively, I squeezed the plant into the back of the pickup truck, and it accompanied me through quarantine and the shell-shocked panic of the move. First it lived on the porch, then in the dining room for the first freeze, but it miraculously bloomed again when I struggled in autumn’s darkness. I watched nubs appear, and then, afraid to hope, I watched brilliant pink buds stretch in their own time, and bloom.
The sun wakes up slightly earlier each morning now, despite ancient fears we still carry, that perhaps the sun will not return. May we remember that the Earth holds us in her hands, loving us as we will slowly creep out from a year of seclusion. May we dare to hope, dare to bud, and look forward to a time when we dare to bloom again. My cactus reminds me that in spite of the uncertainty of its timing, it is resilient, and will extend its petals once again, when ready.
Where do you discover unexpected evidence of the miraculous in your daily life? What accompanies you, as we seek reminders of hope and resilience for this stage of our trek, as we hesitantly consider reemergence after winter, to eventually bud again?