Echinocereus (2014)

PhotoBy Chris Deem (February 2014)

You could say it started one day when, on a whim, I planted a succulent bed. You could also say it started long before that, when I read somewhere that “some Echinocereus cacti” were cold-hardy.

One day, I decided to plant a little Echinocereus cactus out in my succulent bed, just to see what would happen. It shrank considerably that autumn. I thought it had died, yet surprisingly, when spring returned, I realized it had lived. It didn’t grow much or flower that year. Still, I pulled out the weeds and bought a large bag of gravel.

Another winter came, then spring returned, and the cactus had a flower. After that, other echinocereus were planted. Some of them came with names, others did not, but many survived. As time passed, the gravel added was more decorative. Larger rocks were carefully placed, and other winter-hardy cacti were planted in the brick-bordered bed.

The years passed, and as the endless weeds were pulled, I started to notice things, small things and some that were larger. I noticed the texture and colors of the gravel and the softness of the earth in my hands. I also noticed my Echinocereus cacti, the play of color in their spines on sunlit days and their quiet endurance when it was not.

Some of them had scars, and none of them were special, but it didn’t seem to matter out there. I noticed something else, something about myself.

I once grew cacti because I liked them. I liked them still, yet something else had been added: anxiety. I worried endlessly about my collection. What if they got damaged, and always the thought, what would other people think of them?

One day, I realized I never had those thoughts while working in my succulent bed. My old Echinocereus cactus didn’t care, and neither did I. I believe I found something out there, something that I had lost.