Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Fruitful Day

I love you in a place
Where there's no space and time
I love you for my life
You are a friend of mine
Leon Russell

If you take a look at this photo from my back porch, you might notice that tall cactus in the collection on the right. 

Up close, it looks like this.

Pretty ugly, yes?

Funny thing is, that misshapen cluster holds quite a story. Not to mention it's over 45 years old. 

Long ago, when I was young and thin, in college, and 19 or 20, I traveled with a couple of girlfriends from Michigan to Colorado for a Spring Break ski trip. Somewhere down on Colfax Avenue in Denver (which at that time was not a very nice section of town so not certain why we were there) I purchased a tiny three-inch high cactus. Can't tell you why I did that either as I'm a flower person.

On the drive back to Michigan, one of my traveling companions mistakenly set the thermometer in our hotel room to AC mode rather than the heat. We awoke with chattering teeth. My little cacti didn't fare so well either. It had shivered all night and barely stood, now wrinkled and soft. 

I warmed it and took it home. I set it in the sun in my bedroom. Every few months, I watered it. It lived. And thrived. Even grew an inch.

At that time, I had a boyfriend. We had dated in high school in Denver and back in 1973 we looked like this.

At the time of that ski trip (1975) we both lived in Michigan --me in Muskegon and then East Lansing. He in Ypsilanti near Ann Arbor.  We were young. We dated other people. We broke up. We sort of dated each other. All that for a couple years or more. We finally broke up-broke up. For good.

Some things don't die, though. One night, after many months apart, I caught a ride to Ypsi and took that cactus with me. Its survival supplied my metaphor and excuse for being there. Even though this little cactus might have shriveled and almost died due to a chill and inattention, I took care of it and now it grew. I left the cactus with that boyfriend of mine saying that maybe we could do the same thing and see what happens. 

He agreed and took on the cactus.

More than two years later after I'd graduated from college, this happened.
On a hot August day.

My roommates made that cake -- while they were drinking beer.

 The cactus moved to our new home in Ypsilanti. And it grew.  

Then all this other stuff happened.

Graduation - University of Colorado Chemical Engineering
Baby #1 

Baby #2 

Baby #3.

In those years we moved across the country several times and great care was taken to ensure the cactus' safety during the journey -- Michigan, Colorado, Utah, and Connecticut, before landing in Austin in 1988. In spite of the moves, and not always the best conditions, the cactus survived and thrived.

In spite of all the balls flying around our house.

About this time, I began putting the cactus outside in the springtime where it relished the direct sunlight. In our early 40's we conned my parents into taking care of our kids and managed a three week escape, backpacking through Europe.
Trevi Fountain
Monsee, Austria

Forget the kids. 
They just kept getting older, anyway.
As did we.

Green Lake

Hello 50.
As to the cactus, for years my husband and the boys, heeding my calls for caution, carried it out onto the patio each spring and then hauled it back inside to avoid a winter's freeze. It usually brought an argument as it required teamwork to avoid the many spikes that line each arm. 

Hidden in the house, I never thought it might become a tad sullen without the direct light. 
Again, it provided my metaphor. 
Took me years to figure it out, which is when I began to leave it out in the winter, covering it in old sheets during our rare freezes. It liked it out in the fresh air full-time. It grew stronger. Tougher. For the next couple years, it flourished and gained many new arms or whatever you call all those shoots.

Other than that Europe trip, our vacations consisted of Road Trips. We loaded our kids into our GMC Safari van and crisscrossed the lower 48 states, before cell phones. No TV in the car and AAA books and maps as our guide.
Field of Dreams. The Bridges of Madison County. The Black Hills. Devil's Tower. The Corn Palace. Green Lake, Minnesota. Green Bay, Wisconsin. Sheboygan. Chicago. Mackinac Island. Mammoth Cave. Gettysburg. Washington DC. Chincoteague Island. Yankee Stadium. Fenway. Nova Scotia. Trail Ridge Road. San Diego. Disneyland. Mesa Verde. Four Corners.

One hotel room at the Day's Inn. Always an argument over who got the rollaway.
Even though they were nice boys.
In 2008, we ditched the kids for a 30th anniversary trip. 
It's cheaper without your kids.

Left on its own, the cactus grew much stronger in the outside air. One day, one August day, I noticed an odd growth.

Not the prettiest thing I'd ever seen, but most unusual for certain.
Shocked me. 

Next thing we knew, all these guys moved out and became financially independent.


Turks and Caicos!
St Martin with great friends.
Denver Botanical Gardens
British Columbia
Every year, in August, the cactus bloomed. One year -- two blooms. Another-- four. Always in August. Our anniversary month...

while we added to the cast of players.

Oldest Son's Chelsea
Middle Son's Leigh
Maisy Grace
We kept playing.
At the lake.

The Blue Lagoon
Please note my halo.
New York City
You have to visit NYC when your youngest son lives there.
We added a new continent.
On the

The for-real backdrop.
Cape of Good Hope
After Africa in February this year, life changed. The husband retired. He loved his new found freedom. 

Accustomed to quiet 12 hour days of solitude, I attempted to complete my novel accompanied by the roars from blowers, power washing, and the TV. My inspirational view of the backyard from my writing space became obstructed by a motorcycle rebuilding project. Vroom. Vroom.

Murder scenes kept appearing in my writing even though my book wasn't a WhoDoneIt. Finally, finally with the writing complete and the house power-washed to perfection, we reverted to travel mode. A first-time trip to Lake Tahoe to visit family followed by a 4200-mile Road Trip up north, don't you know.

Lake Tahoe
The Apostle Islands -- Wisconsin

After we returned, in mid-July the cactus bloomed. I thought it odd that it bloomed a month early. I chocked it up to the changing climate noting that lots of things seemed a bit off these days. Ahem. 

A couple days ago, while on my way to the compost bin, I noticed something completely different. 


Most appropriate.
Come Sunday we will celebrate 40 years of wedded...


More than a few prickly spikes along the way, but good to know there are still surprises ahead. We'll let the cactus be our guide.

And that damn thing better not die.

While searching photos for this post, it came to my attention that these ARE the only photographs we have of the two of us. We'll have to work on that.


  1. I love this. Kept hoping the cactus would still be alive at the end. And it is!

    1. Yup. I thought it needed repotting, but when the fruit arrived, I'm not so certain anymore.

  2. What a lovely metaphor. That cactus is wonderful.

  3. What an absolutely delightful, uplifting post.

    1. I thank you, Weaver of Grass. You, who delights me with all your posts.

  4. I had a Leon Russell CD going in the car this morning and was marveling at this fabulous love song. Voila! Serendipity! Congrats to a couple of my favorite people!

  5. Love, love, love this! How great you all look! I have one of those cacti. It is indeed a beacon. xo

  6. Absolutely love this post!! Happy Anniversary... and your halo is very becoming ;-)

  7. Oh, that is such a wonderful parallel between your marriage and that cactus. Great pictures, too! You two have had a heck of a journey together--many happy returns of the day!


Let me know what you think. Every word you write, I appreciate.


Related Posts with Thumbnails