Chute

There’s a cactus on the corner by our house.

I honestly can’t remember how it got there. After we built our home and the land settled back down from the trauma of construction, this particular cactus ended up on the corner.  Maybe we planted it there, I’m not sure.

All I know now is that it is my favorite.

I pass it every morning leaving and every evening returning.  It is tall, but not by cactus standards.  Maybe four feet.  Big around with these very cool twisty spines that look like hooks.  The base is green and brown, but there are some deep pinks and reds along the spines and on the top where it takes in water.  It turns the most incredible mixture when it rains and it blooms golden and fuzzy.

There’s nothing especially unique about my cactus, I’m sure there are many others like it. In fact, there’s one pretty similar right next to it, but this one feels special to me.

It stands on our corner. Nobel, strong against the heat, guarding. There’s no swaying or leaves falling with a cactus.  No drama. They don’t make a sound when rain falls or provide shade. I’m a big fan of cacti, in general, but I’ve known this one for eight years.

We’ve been through some stuff together. It knows who robbed our home, but is unable to speak.  It’s watched me laugh and cry during my walks.  It met Jack, warned Jack, and has seen him chase countless birds.  When teenagers tried to toilet paper our house, it made that just a little more difficult.

It’s part of my life landscape, my story, and I like to think I play a part in its life too.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and my cactus was lying on it’s side.

It looked like someone had run into it, or pushed it over.  Michael said there may be something wrong with its root.  Cacti have very shallow roots, which is weird because some of them are super heavy.

I can’t express how upset I was without sounding silly.

We called the landscaper and they couldn’t come out for a couple of days.  I thought about putting blankets across my arms and trying to pick it up myself, but that seemed like a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen, so I tried to be patient.

For days my cactus was on it’s side, out of the ground, helpless.

When it was finally righted, they put three supports to hold it in place while it healed.  I remember turning the corner to my house that day and feeling that, like the cactus, all had been righted in my little piece of the world.

It would heal, recover, and we would spend many more summers and winter mornings together. I would still get to marvel at the intricacies. It would probably outlive me and wouldn’t that be wonderful. I physically took a deep breath in that moment and was grateful.

I check on it every morning, and over the last few days, my cactus has started listing to one side. I can see the base is beginning to give way, soften. It’s not going to make it.  It won’t recover and in a couple of weeks, it will die.

We do this all of the time as human beings, we connect, marvel, expect, and ultimately have to let go.  I can’t say it’s my favorite part of the human experience.  I often wonder why I bother if, in my lifetime, I’m bound to lose pieces of myself.

I’m not sure I know the answer, but I do know that my mornings were lovelier, my home was more interesting and the earth I live on was a better place because of my favorite cactus. It watched over us, welcomed our visitors. I’m not sure my life would have been the same if I’d never bothered to notice. Maybe that’s not in equal measure to the loss, but why we bother must be in there somewhere.

I will make sure my cactus is returned safely to the earth and even though I’m sure its energy will still dwell nearby, I will miss its majestic physical presence for many years to come.

My thoughts from the laundry room.  Lie Down.

10 Replies to “Chute”

  1. Poor cactus. So statuesque yet so sensitive. A gentle giant. I’m sorry you are losing your landmark, your touchstone. Is there any way to take a graft to start a new one from the old?

  2. This is so sad. Many people are probably saying this but I can relate to how you feel. In my front yard, I have this big tree and it grows beautiful red flowers. My parents have been wanting to cut it down forever but I refuse to let them. They hate how it drops it’s red petals all over the cars in the fall/winter but I find it positively beautiful, though it does get annoying once it rains and the petals get stuck to the car and pavement all squashed. I absolutely love that tree though and I’d cry if it was ever cut down. I just feel like it characterizes me and my life. I might not know exactly how you feel, as cool as I think cacti are, but I can relate in a way.

  3. I get this, totally. We had to take down a group of three trees in the yard a month ago, huge things but the middle one was dead and killing the others. I left the stumps. The wood will warm us, and the light coming into that space now is amazing. But the space is just that. Like your cactus, the trees made that space, shaped it, kept it green.
    This post of yours made me cry, and that’s a good, powerful thing. Thank you.

  4. Such a moving & poignant piece.
    We connect deeply to beings; human, plant & otherwise.
    I love that you love this cactus, & care so deeply for it.
    Such a bittersweet rub, to love something so deeply, knowing that death will come.
    Deep bow to you
    Blessings on the earth there that will hold your dear cactus friend.

  5. I love plants in this manner also. I couldn’t think of how else to say that, but it’s true. If the huge oak tree in our side yard ever gave up it’s fight with the bugs that are killing it and died, it just would seem so bare out there. There is a garden, especially, underneath it that uses it’s cool shade to flourish and thrive. Cheers!

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