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Absorbing the Flowers

My Christmas cactus are blooming! Three years ago I wrote a column on this event. Since then, each time it happens, I hear in my head the words I wrote then. I’m tired of this.

Not of the flowers! The problem is, the description I wrote captured the experience. Normally when you say that about a piece of writing, you think that’s a good thing: the writer managed to use words that communicated well. But in this case, I mean that the words have taken over.

No matter how well I may have expressed myself, the words are not the same thing as the event. They’re not even the same thing as my experience of the event — or they shouldn’t be. But that’s what’s happening.

All other aspects of this gorgeous display are drowned out in my mind by the words I used. All I can perceive is what I wrote about. I know there’s more to see and feel here, but my world has dwindled down to what I said. I feel like someone in a Kafka story, suffering the consequences of being proud of my writing.

How can I return to the immediacy of the experience? Out in the garden, I seldom have this problem; I think it’s because there’s too much to do there. I get wrapped up in the work; focusing my mind on the effort of digging, or the judgment of pruning — the requirements of the task at hand — leaves little room in my brain for monologue.

Here, the only thing that needs to be done, is looking. And I do need to look: I feel pulled by this event; my eyes turn there every time I pass the living room door. But I was avoiding it, because of this impediment.

So I’ve started just standing in front of the plants, focusing my mind on absorbing the energy that’s coming from them. Feeling my breathing, as I breathe in the oxygen they make, also ... no fragrance, but who knows what else they put into the air?

In a similar way I try to feel my seeing: just drinking in the visual sensation without labeling it. Of course words start to come: about color, shape, my emotions ... When I notice them, I move my eyes to another part of the plant, and pay attention to that first impact of perception, before the concepts start.

Just breathing in the flowers, drinking them in. They deserve it.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 3 December 2004

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Previous columns I've written about the blooming of my Christmas Cactus: