Night Blooming Cereus   September 26, 2019

change begins, barely noticeable

 pay attention to little things

wait expectantly

in anticipation of fleeting beauty

flowering in a dark, dry night

Over 4 years ago, a friend mailed me a brown envelope containing 2 different varieties of several long narrow “leaves.” These were actually leaf-like structures, flattened stems that function like leaves. Following my friend’s instructions, I stuck each of these into pots where they easily rooted. I lost one of the plants to an unexpected temperature drop 2 years ago. The remaining plant had one bloom last summer that we missed until it was withered.

A few days ago, almost by accident I saw a bit of growth on the edge of one of the flat stems and sent a photo to the friend who sent me the start of the plant. She confirmed it was a flower bud. That meant watching the plant carefully for the next 2 or 3 days. As the growth lengthened and began to swell, anticipation grew so that by the evening I felt it was sure to open, I was bound to stay up and watch. How magical!

Night blooming Cereus may not begin to flower until the rooted plant is four or five years old. It only blooms in the dark.  The flower is almost 7 inches across and is fragrant, borne off the tops of the stems. The bloom usually begins at 9 or 10 p.m. and is fully open by midnight. After the sun rises, the petals droop and die.

Ending to Begin Again

IMG_1885Here at the end of the year comes the year’s springing

The falling and melting snow meet in the stream’

That flows with living waters and cleanses the dream.

The reed bends and endures and sees the dove’s winging.’En


Move into the year and the new time’s turning

Open and vulnerable and loving and steady

The stars are aflame; creation is ready.

The day is at hand. The bright sun burns.

Madeleine L’Engle, as quoted in Winter Song, Christmas Readings

By Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw




Light for the Darkness



Our hearts and homes are filled with anticipation of Christmas – music, the laughter of children, twinkling lights, and cookie baking. But there is no blocking the awareness of evil and horror in our world.  Media brings the terror of war and injustice of humans to even children right into our living room.  We may prefer to close our eyes and shut our ears to this threatening clamor, and may be tempted to think there has never been so much to fear at a Christmastime. But through the ages, there has been darkness and wrong – 100 years ago, in the trenches of WW I, the December of the attack on Pearl Harbor , and in the time before the first Nativity.

The poem below was written years ago by Madeleine L’Engle.  I believe it was one of the previously unpublished pieces included in the collection in Winter Song, published by L’Engle and her friend Luci Shaw in 1996, and was written some time before that, so at least 20 years ago.  But it sounds like she could have been writing after seeing this morning’s newscasts.


Into the Darkest Hour

It was a time like this,

War & tumult of war,

a horror in the air,

Hungry yawned the abyss –

and yet there came the star

and the child most wonderfully there.


It was time like this

of fear & lust for power

license & greed and blight –

and yet the Prince of bliss

came into the darkest hour

in quiet & silent light.


And in a time like this

how celebrate his birth

when all things fall apart?

Ah! wonderful it is

with no room on the earth

the stable is our heart.

~ Madeleine L’Engle, as quoted in Winter Song, Christmas Readings by Madeleine L’Enlge & Luci Shaw


This Morning, I Do!


The cardinal pair which is faithful to choose nesting sites in our garden is a consistent source of delight for me.  Their song draws me from my own nest with pillow and lamp, put down my book,  walk barefoot on the cool wet stones of today’s path.  I am called to pay attention, to  have my heart pierced as the sun rises, to love this world and to cherish this life, to exclaim of the dearness given to me new every day.  I love Mary Oliver’s poem that prompts these words for me.


This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
~ Mary Oliver, “Peonies” from New And Selected Poems

Farewell, Tree

On the edge of our church’s prayer garden, a massive cedar tree stood like a guardian of the corner for many many years.  Not as beautiful as the spreading arms of the oak tree nearby, yet its stature and twisted, pitted trunk, spoke story to all who stood beneath it.  Because it was diseased and damaged, there had been concern about the damage it would do if it came down on its own, creating danger for the many children and adults passing underneath daily.  The time came three weeks ago as a storm with high winds was forecast when a decision was made to fell the tree – a wise decision, but a sad one.  Here are photos of the fallen giant and a small poem in memory of a very large friend.

Farewell, Tree
ancient evergreen groans
massive gnarled trunk splits
thundering as it falls
hiding place sundered
red bird sits on broken branch
friends gather
breathing the scent of cedar