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Plant Therapy

cactus by Gerry's houseDSC02025Bachs - petrif wood and sagMy fingertip drums the steering wheel. The movement is involuntary. I'm stopped in traffic and cars stuck behind me honk. There's no left-hand turning lane along this stretch of road. A dirt-smeared yellow school bus grinds to a stop in the opposite lane and turns on its flashers. Traffic queues behind the bus.  Three teenage boys jostle each other down the steps, exiting with casual disregard for the waiting drivers. They linger just long enough to give me time to swing onto the dirt road leading to the cactus nursery.

My little Camero vibrates as its tires adjust from smooth pavement to washboard dirt road. In seconds I am transported from city to rural.  The loosely graveled, one-lane road meanders behind a screen of native vegetation thick enough to obscure the continued parade of cars on the main road.  Traffic sounds are muffled, then dissipate. My breathing slows; my finger stops tapping. The road, a lane really, curves past tall Saguaros and huge sections of petrified wood, strikingly out of place under the overgrowth of Yuccas and aging Palo Verde trees. The nursery owners placed the mineralized wood decades ago. The mighty sections have settled deep into the soft desert dirt banking the narrow road. Overhead, a tangled canopy of arid-land trees breaks the late afternoon sunlight, causing it to strobe across the car's windshield. The effect is other worldly, but calming. The distress of my morning is swept aside. The hushed secrets held in the ancient hunks of petrified wood and the imposing silhouettes of saguaro cacti arms combine to inspire respectful tranquility.

The nursery sprawls lazily over several acres. Unlike the housing developments that have sprung up in the surrounding area--ostentatious intruders on the delicate desert landscape--the nursery is unobtrusive, nestled into its desert home, respectful and humble. The road widens, spilling me into a curved, packed-dirt parking area. Spaces for cars are tucked between boulder-filled cactus gardens. Displays of Mexican pots sport designs in colors that defy anything created by nature. How can anyone help but smile when faced with such well-intentioned colorful chaos?

Groupings of cactus and succulents tantalize, beckoning me from my car, pulling me into their hypnotic auras. Spikes of Agave, sporting forty-inch spears of green, defy humans to step too close. Globular clumps of Bishop's Cap and the thorny heads of Horrida poke out from bright, Mexican, glazed pots. Nestled between decorative boulders, starfish-shaped, grey-green Tituband stake their claim on a coveted patch of desert soil. Skinny arms of Euphorbia drape over the top of their clay-pot homes, rooting wherever they touch the ground. Sunset-orange blossoms crown the heads of Claret Cup cactus, a juxtaposition of generous beauty and armored no-nonsense survivalist.  Tiny pink blooms form May Day crowns on barrel-shaped Mammillaria. Blooms of all colors open to the sun with breathtaking splendor, however brief: a reminder to enjoy the moment because it will pass all too quickly.

The air is desert-winter crisp. Bees drone from blossom to blossom, too occupied with the job at hand to notice my intrusion. Gravel crunches under my shoes as I make my way to the greenhouse. Every surface is crowded with alien, thorn-covered forms and shapes:  twisted, reaching, curling. Powder Puff cactus slyly beckon the unwary visitor to reach out and touch their soft, fuzzy cottony coating:  a disguise. Underneath is a porcupine of needles that will impale human skin without premeditation or desire to cause pain. These cacti are who they are, unapologetic and without remorse.  There is no pretense here.

Inside the greenhouse, Jade plants mimic beauteous bridal bouquets, thick satiny leaves smothered in a froth of pinky white flowers. I've never seen Jades bloom before. It's magic. I settle onto a rough wooden bench. The haunting air-raid siren call of a hummingbird vibrates off the corrugated greenhouse walls. Ms. Hummer spins through the door and dives her greedy beak into the elongated, red flower of a Hesperaloe. Satiated, the tiny green and purple whirlwind hovers inches from my face, finds me lacking, and rockets away. Yes, there is magic in this place.  I visualize my own garden, mentally scanning for perfect spots to place a new cactus or two...or three. I plot my purchases, smiling and at peace.  Call it organic consumerism if you will; I call it plant therapy.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
plant therapy.
I love it..I could feel the peace coming through in your words and could easily visualize all that you described seeing. Made me feel more peaceful too. Thanks! NG
Jan. 29th, 2014 01:20 am (UTC)
Re: plant therapy.
SO pleased you read this one. One of these days you'll have to go over to Bach's with me and soak it all up.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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Lynn Nicholas / allmyhead

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