Never Say Die

Many of you will remember the tale of this Christmas cactus.

Many of you will remember this Christmas cactus that I had ‘killed’ by leaving it out in frigid temperatures the first winter after we moved here to LA–Lower Alabama. Oh, my heartbreak when I saw it the next morning! The succulent leaves had turned to mush. An experienced gardener said, “I’m sorry to tell you, but that thing is toast. Christmas cactus cannot stand frost or freezing.”

I had grown this Christmas cactus from a clipping off a heirloom plant that my husband’s grandmother gave me, started it some twenty-five years ago. It’s been in the same pot nearly as long. After it’s night in the winter cold, it had turned to mush. I trimmed the plant to the main woody stems, kept it inside and watered the plant until watering a dead thing got tedious, so I had my husband take it to the small, and unheated, greenhouse room off the garage, intending to at least save the pot. There it sat forgotten on the sand floor for the rest of the winter and into late spring, I spied it one day when going in for a gardening tool.

Was that a nub of green on the dead-looking woody stalk?

A few days later, I checked again. The new growth was not like anything I expected. It was triangle in shape, a sort of mutant looking thing. I watered it, just in case and forgot it again for weeks. The next time I looked I saw more of those little triangle nubs had appeared, and then–definite leaves! By the middle of summer, I moved the plant back to the courtyard garden. This year it is beginning to actually be pretty again.

The resurrected plant is a good reminder to me for my writing and my life: Don’t be so quick to give up. Don’t be so quick to listen to ‘expert’ advice. Try again, and again. When I feel like I, or my idea, or my talent, or my energy, or my patience have become ‘toast’, take a little rest, trust my inner life rhythms, and be ready for surprises.

Never say die.

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. ~ William Feather

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