Reflections on the Night Blooming Cereus by Roger Harmon
Reflections on the Night-blooming Cereus
by Roger Harmon
“I think the cereus is going to bloom tonight!,” Nancy’s mother, Florence, declared excitedly.
Florence had said the same words on one night each year for the seven years Nancy and I were with her and her husband, Bruce, in California.
When Florence died 3 years ago, those who loved and admired her took a clipping from the original plant. We returned to live in New Mexico with a clipping that we stuck in a pot to root. For the first two years there were many leaves but no buds. But this year we had buds! We eagerly awaited that one night of the year when the buds would open–and, by morning be gone.
One night in July, just as had Florence, Nancy said excitedly, “I think it’s going to bloom tonight!”
And sure enough around 10:00 p.m. all three blossoms opened brilliantly, standing forth in contrast to the anything-but-beautiful desert plant. (Please see attached photos.)
Nature’s beautiful gift is enough. However, the connection and continuity we felt with Florence and other family through the cereus was also special. Throughout the summer, we received photos from Arizona and California of spectacular blossoms opening from clippings others had taken from the original plant. And with the photos came messages of both gratitude and longing for Florence and Bruce, now both gone.
I thought of how the blossoming forth of the cereus symbolized a thread that William Stafford wrote about in his poem, “The Way It Is” copied here:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
For us the cereus has been the thread that connects us to the wonders and cycles of Nature as well as to loved ones of three generations who share in the miracle of this fleeting flower.