2000-12-12 - 11:44 p.m.
My Christmas cactus is still blooming! I bought it last year from one of the secretaries on my floor - she was selling cacti and cyclamen for her cousin's PTA. The cyclamen didn't last long after the move to Nashville (they do thrive here, but I was going through a black-thumbed funk at the time). The cactus roosted quietly in our bathroom all year, and then, right before Thankgiving, the first magenta-and-white buds unfurled. I can't even remember if it had flowers last year, making it all the more thrilling every time I stop in the bathroom to feed the cat or perform my ablutions or retrieve a book and behold my beautiful plant. I may have to go scavenging around the nurseries after the season to see if there are any dormant beauties that can be carried away for a song - what's a song against future thrills...?
A Christmas cactus also figures in one of my favorite holiday stories, which is printed in The Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson. It's the chapter titled "Brief Lives: Kevin." Fruitcake-construction and Liberace also figure prominently in the story. to give you a flavor of Mr. Richardson's style, I'll end with an excerpt from another of the "Brief Lives" glimpsed in the book, this one penned by a lawyer named Gordon who found himself attempting to get into the spirit of a nature retreat:
"Ok, tree," I said. "Give! Tell me something I need to know." I snickered. But I didn't let go. It felt good, much to my surprise, to hug this tree, which was old and full of the stuff of support. It was unexpectedly settling, like being anchored and buoyed at the same time.
A few minutes passed, and still I held on. The tree was a pine, or a fir, or a cedar. For me, the distinctions are hazy. The bark was raspy, slightly sticky.Resin. I breathed in the smell of Christmas.
"Tell me," I said, again, "tell me something I need to know."
This time the tree spoke. Its voice came up from its roots,rising up through its tight and many rings. It said, "Get the hell out."
If you've heard a tree talk, you'll know that you don't argue or cross-examine. You do what you're told...
[some time later]
"Virgil [said Hector, one of the Bachelor Brothers], "what book would you suggest for someone who was told by a tree to get the hell out?"
Virgil considered this for a long minute or two.
"Not Dante. But the Hardy Boys might be a good bet. And give him a whisky, quick. Whisky's curative properties are diluted by half if it's given after noon."
-Bill Richardson, The Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast
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