constellations #31: cactus flowers
In April of 2017, a friend of mine from grad school was moving off the East Coast. I went to her apartment to hang out one last time and she sent me home with a couple plants she didn’t want to travel with. (What a nice friend.) Neither plant looked particularly healthy; one of them died a few short months later. The other one, a cactus, hung on, and I kept kind of mindlessly caring for it even though I was convinced it would keel over any day.
As it turns out the cactus was in fine health, I just didn’t know what to look for. And about fifty-five weeks later, just a few days before my birthday, it blossomed, the shock of which filled me with an acute and almost painful kind of joy.
In press about The Weather Station’s new album, Ignorance, which is really quite beautiful, Tamara Lindeman has talked about the intense emotional experience she had while researching the climate crisis, and how most of the songs on the album are about that, and how people usually don’t take her seriously when she tells them about how it impacted her because we don’t really have a cultural conception of a relationship with the world being as deep and intense as, say, a relationship with another human. When I asked her about it, she said something that stuck with me: “That, to me, is the biggest thing that came out of this strange journey I went on: to acknowledge that I could care this much and this deeply. To acknowledge that it really matters to me whether or not, like, songbirds survive.”
I love the way she put that — about the songbirds, yes, but also about how the natural world makes us confront our capacity to care: that maybe we house within us a store of compassion we aren’t aware of, waiting to be tapped into.
Our cactus bloomed again this month. So I think that makes once in April, once in the fall and once in February in the nearly four years we’ve had it. I don’t love the unpredictability but I respect it.
When the buds began appearing this year we both started geeking out. The cactus sits on Matt’s desk and every morning before work I’d inspect the leaves for growth and then turn to him and gush, or vice-versa. I’m so proud of our plant! we both kept saying. Likewise the monstera we bought last year is slowly unfurling a new leaf and sometimes when things feel awful or stressful or Too Much one of us will turn to the other and say, but you know what doesn’t suck — look at that leaf! and we both agree that it’s very good.
In either case what feels like pride, I think, is really just gratitude: grateful for growth (and to play a small role in it), grateful for beauty, grateful to be reminded that there are seasons for growing and seasons for stasis and seasons for flowers, grateful to get to watch something slowly and patiently unfold itself in front of the world in such a hopeful gesture, grateful to get to care this much and this deeply.
Other things, Valentine’s edition:
Reflecting on how one of the most embarrassing things about being in love is catching yourself swooning over entirely run-of-the-mill behavior
“Sex is great. But have you ever had a friend breathlessly tell you how much they miss you?” (I miss my friends.)
Feeling inspired yet again by this “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” cover
Take care this week; buy yourself some flowers, if you can! Thanks for reading.