Here’s a sure sign at my house of the season coming: An old Christmas cactus is blooming once again.
It’s a relic of a former girlfriend and because I am neither a very good domestic partner nor a plants-inside kind of a guy, it doesn’t get very good care. It must like my kitchen, though. I keep it there because, next to the sink, I remember to water it and it gets the right amount of sun.
It is at least 15 years old. It’s the only live plant I have in the house. All other flora is either hanging or painted on a wall.
I realize as I post this that the tree on the wall was sewn by the same Juanita Appleseed. It has stayed long after she moved on because it puts color in the room and occupies a corner that I, on my own, could not figure how to fill.
I am not devoted to symbols. I try to avoid superstition. I suspect their significance is what I see in them at the moment, rather than their having inherent meaning.
And my writing this morning probably has mostly to do with getting a good night’s sleep. I got a PET scan reading yesterday that found my radiation and chemo-treated lung cancer is stable and there is no evidence of proliferating disease. I am practically dizzy with restored brain cells — the good kind.
The scan read radioactive tracers, not tea leaves. It is true that I was visited by an abundance of bluebirds before this latest test and that, before the previous one, a hummingbird flew into the view of my iPhone.
The hummingbird photo at the moment seemed a once in a lifetime shot. But I realized later that, camera already steadied, I was standing in front of the red flowers of the autumn sage when the bird flew into view.
And almost in the same frame of time as the hummingbird, I was greeted at my front door by a large diamondback rattlesnake and someone backed their truck into me at a stoplight as I drove home from my long-delayed retirement party at work.
I love the Western bluebirds, but I have fooled myself before. Years ago, a friend with cervical cancer came out to sit in my kitchen with me and our city editor and look out the window at the mountain view.
Bluebirds arrived and, through all her painkiller dopiness, she smiled and said, “Bluebirds of happiness.”
I guess I thought at first that her comment was hopeful, and it wrenched my heart. But she was a smart woman, and I have thought about it more.
She did not live long after that visit. I know she knew. I think now she must have meant happiness in the moment.
But you never know. Maybe she also meant — and I admit I hope — happiness on the other side.
And, for what it’s worth, here’s a bluebird this morning.