Mabel Brantley Haardt, beloved and wonderfully eccentric sister to our grandmother, was always one to offer whatever she had to others. I do not remember ever leaving her home empty-handed. One trip she insisted that I take a black plastic pot among several in her back yard holding a Night Blooming Cereus, a spraggly plant that we wedged onto the floor of the car.
Pronouncing it 'series' with native Alabama honey in her voice, Mabel told how in the 1960's they would have garden parties and go outside about ten o'clock to see the blooms "as big as a pie plate". She tended it all these decades and promised that it was easy to care for.
The plant itself is unsightly: flat, green, woody cactus stems emerge from a parched soil base. It grows from tubers underneath the surface--some grow the size of a watermelon in the Sonoran desert--not exactly the thing that would garner a nomination for Yard of the Month in the deep south.
But the oddest thing happens to this plant which looks like it has been discarded in my back yard near the woodpile: delicate petals in white and yellow the size of your outstretched hand sprout forth from the dried stem and open to the summer night. What a beautiful sight! Who is there to enjoy it? We have no garden parties at our home, though my husband, always watchful, gives me the heads up so that I can check the blooms in the early morning the next day when he sees that one forming, because they close and shrivel after one night's show. September and October are prime months, and this one pictured above showed out this week. There were four blooms all in one night a few years ago in September on the day of Aunt Mabel's funeral. I had to smile.
Wikipedia even has a reference from a surprising source noting this flower: John Wesley, "John Wesley's Journal", Mon. 24th July 1780, describes the blooming and fading of the "Nightly Cereus" which had a 125mm dia. white centre, and 225mm dia. [that would be 8.86 inches across!] "yellow ray" petals. I plan to read it because I have long thought there is a spiritual dimension to many of God's creations which offer a lesson for us.
Not many things thrive on neglect. People, relationships, and most growing things need care. But this hardy plant lives to bloom no matter what I do to it.
I have not fed or repotted it in many years, though I realize I am confessing my poor gardening skills about a family heirloom publicly. It is hard-wired into this cactus to produce glorious blooms out of nothing but the reservoir below the surface.
We, too, can appear to be past our prime....at the end of the road....suffering from various maladies that afflict us throughout this life, having neglected the care of ourselves or having been discarded by others whose approval and love we longed to receive. People can be figuratively sitting at the place where my plant is right now - at the back corner of the house feeling unable or unworthy to venture forth to a proper place in the mix of others. We pass them all the time. They can even be each of us from time to time. Do we even notice?
Each of us has intrinsic value and the potential for a bloom to burst forth from the most unexpected place. Don't miss it!
"Behold, I am doing a new thing. Now it shall spring forth. Do you perceive it?"
I am trying to watch for the 'new thing' when we least expect it and I am seeing it all around.
The Lord God provides a reservoir of sorts for us as well - ways of sustaining us when we have exhausted our own resources:
"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you...There is hope in your future, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:3, 17
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4