Monday, February 12, 2007
I'm wondering what the deal is with my Christmas cactus.
It's blooming madly now, big juicy chartreuse blossoms that hang over the side of the pot. I haven't bothered to water the plant for weeks now--the less I water it, the more it blooms. If I do water it, in fact, the blooms implode--shrivel, harden, fall off.
At the same time, the blades (for lack of a better word) twist and shrivel, curl up, look as if they're exhausted, done in, ready to kick the old bucket. "Wow," said a student once, "Is that thing okay? Cause it looks like it's dying." The leaf-blades, usually a nice medium green, have turned dark, brown and purple, weighted. It's as if the whole process of blooming has sapped the plant's system.
This is definitely a metaphor for something--probably the writing process. Or peri-menopause. Maybe marriage. Love, of course.
A little internet research yields these facts: Christmas cactuses need to be in cooler places, not exposed to drafts. Well, my office plant is right over the heater and heat blows up on it, when heat comes out of the register (it's certainly not coming out now), and it's right in the window, where I'm sure a draft wiggles through the panes. Christmas cacti are not as drought resistant as some of their relatives (they are not true cacti) and so they need to be watered as soon as their top soil gets dry to the touch. If we want our cacti to bloom again after Christmas, we should give them "uninterrupted dark periods" for about 12 hours every night--close them in a closet, for instance. Well, some of that goes on in here. But I'm sure that the parking lot light shines in over it, and the low lamplight from the walkways, and the diffused starlight from behind clouds. If the cactus gets too much light, it'll turn reddish (ah ha!) and wilted.
According to all this, I should immediately a) water the plant, b) move it off the window ledge, c) pinch off some of the old blossoms so that it'll make new ones.
But if my plant is in a metaphorical relationship with my writing process, what I should do is to, for once, leave the damn thing alone. Let it bloom in desert sand. Let it suck the very marrow out of the old soil, starving, over the draft, in direct sunlight, turning red with the effort, burning up, exploding into blossom.