“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”–Anais Nin
On sunny, but cold winter mornings, it is not unusual for me to walk past the living room and see both of our cats sprawled on the floor in the bright slant of sunshine beaming through the picture window. Therefore, this past Saturday, as I walked through the house after my morning run, a smile of comfort spread across my face as I caught a glimpse of our two aging felines sun-bathing. However, my brain also signaled that something was “off.”
Pausing, taking a backwards step to peer once more through an entrance way, I scanned the room. Our male cat, the longer of the two cats, full of black fur, save one white paw, raised his head, glared at me for having the audacity to enter the room, as if I needed his permission, and meowed his disapproval of my presence. The gray female, who is, well, she is sensitive about this, but she is, shall we say, the fluffier of the two, blinked open one eye, and then the other, attempting to register the disturbance of her basking peacefulness. Glancing around the room, seeing nothing out of place, I turned to walk out sensing the full chill of sweat drying as my body began to cool down at a more rapid pace.
I turned to walk away, but wait, there were those alarms again. Taking one last glance over my shoulder as I simultaneously chastised myself for having a run-away imagination, something clicked. There was the very thing my brain had been trying in vain to communicate.
I couldn’t believe it! Christmas had been over a month ago as the wall calendar we still faithfully use was nearly ready to be flipped to February; and yet, there it was, the only one. It was delicate, dainty, adored in haughty punch pink and full of pride.
Oh, wow! I thought as I looked on in amazement at one brilliantly hued bloom on a Christmas cactus.
In December, the entire plant had been full of blooms as bedazzled as any holiday tree. In fact, I have two Christmas cacti in the living room, and they had both spectacularly bloomed over the course of the holiday season, beginning not long after Thanksgiving. However, there were a handful of buds on each plant that grew with great promise, but in the end, never bloomed. Instead, those buds held tightly together, and eventually fell off the cacti without blossoming. All of their potential, lost in their continued grasping, waiting for the precise right time to blossom, rather than letting go of control and allowing it to happen.
Turning back to get my phone in order to take a picture, my brain, now buzzing with the excitement of the discovery, was likewise pulsating with the object lesson provided by this blossom. A Talumedic quote sprinted through my head as my memory tried to catch its fleeting words. Something about every blade of grass having an angel telling it to grow. What was that quote? Did this blossom likewise have an angel?
For the love of Pete, Stephanie, get out of your story-writing head and just enjoy the exotic beauty of this blossom.
Taking the picture, then standing to admire the flower from all angles, I no longer noticed my chilling body as I became filled with inspiration. I know, I know, I sound so dramatic, but seriously this was special–at least in my mind. If Divine Providence doesn’t give up on a tightly closed bud, then it surely doesn’t give up on us! If we, as humans, would just quit grasping for the safety of the known and rely in faith that there is a higher power whispering gentle encouragements of growth, we might then realize that we can blossom–even if seemingly out-of-season.
Years ago, when I taught Kindergarten, each spring, I would order a so-called “Butterfly Garden” as a more tangible way to teach metamorphosis. Each morning, curious faces would check the caterpillars. They could observe the ways in which they grew, formed chrysalides, and ultimately witness the emergence of Painted Lady butterflies, wet, crumpled, and rather unrecognizable.
Nearly every year, however, there was that one chrysalis that would not open when the other Painted Ladies emerged. Often, there were those kids who suggested that we should “break it open” as a way of helping it along the metamorphic process. I would use this as an opportunity to ask them if they liked being woken up from sleep and the comfort of their warm, cozy bed. Of course, there were echoes of “No,” followed by the typical chatterings of five and six year olds. Eventually, in time, that snuggled up caterpillar would emerge–better late than never!
Dear Reader, it can be so hard for us to let go of the comfort of what-was and the arms of the-way-it has-always-been. However, if like that cactus bud and the late developing butterfly, we can bravely release our graspings, we might find that we can blossom and take flight in a metaphorically new direction, repurposed and ready for new expressions and expanded experiences, even if at the most unexpected times. As the bud on my Christmas cactus demonstrated, it is never too late to bloom.