It has been six years since a little Easter cactus took up residence with me. (It had no choice, I should add, and maybe that contributed to the problem.)
I don’t know much about cacti, being raised off the lower tip of Lake Michigan. But I asked a lot of questions and followed a lot of generously offered directions.
Year after year I watered sparingly, fed occasionally, altered light levels and waited. The chubby little paddle-leaves stayed green and appeared healthy, but blooming seemed out of the question.
This year, things just got so busy that I kept forgetting to water the African violets and this little darling, who all lived in a north window down the hall. The violets hung on, though they certainly look shabby after my neglect. But the cactus looked like it always does: green and bloomless.
I moved the whole crew into the library next to my room, thinking watering would be more predictable if they were in my line of sight more frequently, and so far it’s working. I can practically hear the violets sighing with relief.
Then, almost overnight, the cactus bloomed. Not just a few little red dots here and there, but over fifty brilliant spikes popped out — from ends and intersections, on one side or two, as if six years worth of flowers have been waiting in those chubby green wings for this day.
Apparently neglect was the one ingredient I hadn’t thought of.
I visit it several times a day, gushing over its beauty and hardiness. I’m hoping the west window and my praise will encourage it to do something wondrous like this next Easter, too.
And I speak to the violets — mostly apologies for giving them less than my best, especially since they were blooming with wild abandon ever since they came up here. I’m encouraging them to give the west window a chance, but if they don’t like it, I’ll put them back down the hall.
We watched Cast Away last night, and when Tom Hanks sobbed over the loss of his soccer-ball companion Wilson, I identified with his sense of guilt.
But I haven’t lost those lovely violets, not yet.
So I will love them and water them and trim their wilted leaves and hope for their best. And if they really prefer the north light, I’ll set an alarm on my computer calendar so I don’t forget their water — or to give them my praise — again.
Every living thing deserves a fair shot at life. And at blooming.