I’ve owned a lot of plants in my life. They come and they go. Some bi-annuals fade away. Some house plants have been inadvertently killed due to my busy schedule. The one plant that’s been a constant in my life for the past fifteen years is my night-blooming cirrus.
This is a Gift Plant. It’s cuttings were given to me by a neighbor. I’m on my second large container that holds its colossal greenery. This plant is hardy. Indigenously, it grows on the ground in the tropics. It’s singular flowers bloom once – at night between dusk and dawn – then they’re gone. Forever. Never again will I see the same blossom. There will be more to come. I never know when or on which side of the plant another will grow. If I’m blessed, and I have been, there will be more than one at a time lurking beneath the heavy foliage. So, I have to pay attention.
When the stems of the bloom slope down from a leaf, letting me know the phenomenon is about to happen, I’ll stay up late that night. Like a mid-wife excited about assisting in the birth of the next miracle coming into the world, I watch in wonder at a process I’ve seen over and over. I shoot a million pictures and text anyone who wants to see. The scent of the flower is concentrated. If the plant were in the house, every room would be filled with this ineffably orangey-musky smell. The bloom is white. It’s larger than the size of a man’s fist. Inside is another, tiny bloom. Like something otherworldly, this miniature star extends outward into the moonlight, heralding the nocturnal insect that’s supposed to come and steal its nectar.
The soul of this plant seems deep and meaning-seeking to me. This is the Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha or Mandela of all plants. It’s exotic, yet hardy. It’s majestic, yet not particularly pretty. It stands above all other flora and stays consistent with its purpose. It spreads its large leaves in an outward reach. I handed out some cuttings at work and they’ve remained happy by themselves in an empty glass or rooted in water. If a leaf cutting is slipped into mud, its tendrils spread and grow another plant with very little help. If I were to give the cirrus a personality trait, I’d say it’s indifferent in that pleasant way where it enjoys company but doesn’t need it to thrive. To me, it’s also the greatest metaphor I know that reflects the inexpressible spiritual moments in our lives.
You know those moments. Like the time a passed loved-one manifested at the foot of your bed to say hello (or good-bye), or the time you felt yourself in your sleep talking to your ancestors, or the time you know you saw little people sitting in the trees smiling down at you, or the time you felt the presence of God so strongly in your body you couldn’t speak, or the time you astral-travelled to another planet and woke up terrified yet wishing that could happen again, or the time you heard a loving voice behind you, yet no one was there. Those moments. Those singular moments we’re both terrified of, yet exhilarated by. Those are the moments that remind us we’re just one tiny carbon-being among a larger, unfathomable universe that’s beyond our comprehension yet, we feel so knowingly tied to. Those moments.
Sometimes we sleep through those moments, figuring there’ll be another bloom later on. Sometimes we stay up all night fascinated by the miracle of the inexplicable. Sometimes we explain them away because our mind can’t understand what happened. Sometimes we fear telling anyone because the community we’re tied to may expunge us, yet when we do share, we realize they too have had those moments. Some of us spend every waking hour attempting to get those moments back. Yet, like those elusive and hardy blooms, they come when they come. We just have to open to them when they happen.
We can look for them. We can ask for them to happen again. We can cultivate our lives to increase the probability of them. They will come again. Painfully, they will also go. Though in their coming and going, they leave something behind. They leave us with a reminder that we’re connected to something bigger and that something bigger is here for us. They leave us exhilarated by the miracle that is our life. They also leave us humble, because we can’t really explain how or why. If we want to stay open to them, we’re forced to just accept them. This is the hardest part – accepting something we really can’t understand. Yet, it’s in the acceptance of these mysterious experiences that we feel our Soul. Those moments leave us open to probabilities. They free us, for just a while, from the mundane routines in our lives that can keep us numb and forgetting the bigger picture.
Perhaps if we become like the cirrus, open to engagement, yet comfortable with just being, we can feel the inexplicable rhythm of those moments more regularly. Perhaps we can allow them to run their course, accepting the gift of their presence and their loss.