Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

I love that I am still visited by epiphanies.

I have suddenly discovered that I don’t care if the art I create is what I envisioned, or good, or if I have an opportunity to share it with anyone, or what other people might think of it.

Art is my opportunity to spend time with the beauty I see and hear and smell and touch in the world.

Funny, I’ve known this about writing since I could hold a book, and a pencil. Other forms of expression have been foreign to me though. In part that is because I grew up in an environment where the materials needed to pursue skills in self expression in “legitimate” ways like drawing, painting or music, were too costly to be available to me, or my siblings. Words, now words we could make our own, we could shape and form them, send them out to interact with the universe, see them fly into the distance, die in silence, and on very special occasions return to us, having resonated with another human being. We didn’t need money, or have to travel in the social circles of privilege to gain access to this art form, it was there. It is my Mom who gave us words. She read or recited to us every night, mostly poetry, sometimes she sang to us. Her Mother, my Granny, also read to us every night when we were with her. Their voices have followed me all the days of my life. As children we experienced wealth, and only felt our overt poverty when exposed to the ignorance and greed of the social environment around us.

I fear the personal power of words is now being taken from the poor, as technology dumbs down the population, discouraging bonding between humans, preventing the formation of communities as youth increasingly seek that 15 minutes of fame. But I digress.

On Monday of this week, on a mundane shopping trip to purchase food items, I spied some inexpensive Christmas Cactus plants for sale. I bought one. When I got it home I removed the bright plastic that wrapped itself around the pot, and placed the pot in a green vase, which I then placed near the cafe curtains in the front window. As I sit in my comfortable easy chair, laptop in lap, I find myself frequently glancing up, to soak in the simple beauty of the plant. I notice the change in the blooms day by day; the dance of the two little flies that came stowed away in its wide flat leaves; the ever changing quality of the silhouette as morning lamps give way to dawn which slips away at the end of the day delivering the outlines to where they began. And I find that I want to draw it, photograph it, spend intimate time with it. The process is the thing, the result is an undisclosed and unimaginable byproduct.

Christmas Cactus Midday
Christmas Cactus Midday

I am having the most peculiar day. I feel as if I have been tossed into a rock tumbler for the day. I lay awake last night until 2:00 a.m., at which time I arose and by turns began to putter about on the computer, did some reading, and sat quietly looking at the Christmas Cactus. At about 3:30 a.m. I went back to bed and listened to Attila snoring for an hour or more. The next thing I knew it was 6:00 a.m. and Attila was calling to me to wake up. After Attila left I completely lost track of time, finally remembering to eat my cold breakfast at noon, which was a bowl of oatmeal I had cooked at 8:00 a.m this morning, still sitting on the counter with a spoon at the ready beside it. The mail arrived while I was eating, forcing me to get dressed, in order to go out of doors to fetch it, as I was still sitting in my pyjamas. Forgetting to eat is unusual for me these days, although when I was younger and working on my PhD, I would forget to eat most meals, usually only getting around to eating when I prepared and served my girls their evening meal.

I have completed my Christmas shopping online, and most of it has been delivered to Mist Cottage, although there are a few items yet to arrive. I’ve decided that my grandchildren live in such comfortable circumstances that no gift that we could afford would ever seem magical to them. So I purchased for them gifts that I would have treasured as a child, which has a certain degree of magic for me regardless of how invisible the gifts end up beside the wealth of toys showered on the children by their parents, and the other, more affluent, grandparents. I have never had a natural feel for consumerism, and have never understood what possessions would delight my children, and now my grandchildren, so that I fear that even were we to have an open ended budget I would miss the mark. All we can offer besides our extremely modest material gifts (books that Attila and read when we were their age), are smiles and hugs and our time and genuine love and delight in their existence, which they seem to like more than our material offerings anyway.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 11:00 AM EST Thursday 1 December 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 6.5°C
Dew point: 1.4°C
Humidity: 70%
Wind: WSW 30 gust 47 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Good taste is the enemy of creativity.”
Pablo Picasso
1881 – 1973


  1. Teri

    Many years ago I worked at being a writer. My personal interest was science fiction/fantasy, but I found that I couldn’t write when I was working a 9-5 job, so I dropped it.

    Many years later I replaced my need to craft the written word with an interest in converting illustrations into cross stitch patterns and then later into digital graphics. I’m so glad I was able to find an equivalent outlet that makes me happy, and also brings in a few coins here and there.

    I too have been looking at Christmas Cactus. My grandmother use to have 2 and so they have a special place in my heart. I’m not so sure I could make them bloom a second time, though. I’d hoped to find a nice faux version but I haven’t seen any around. None. 🙁 Might need to try a search.

    BTW, your cactus pic isn’t coming up for me. The picture comes up: marsedit://pending/5A6D5425-573B-4970-A4C8-9618C9A67128/

    We did most of our Christmas shopping online, too. Although we’re not finished, yet. One thing that seems “in” this year seems to be a throws shaped like a mermaid tail. We’ve gotten one for SD16 and one for older granddaughter (10), along with some small thing to balance out what we’re spending on everyone. But most of the time we just ask the parents what the child would like.

    Grandson is just turning 13, so it’s been suggested to us that a gift card is the best choice. He had asked for a video game but mom didn’t understand what he wanted, so she suggested the gift card – which always seems a good choice for emergent teens. And since grandson now has a girlfriend he wants to take to the movies, that might be useful in that way too. 😉

  2. Kate, I know what you mean about the gifts most remembered. Our stockings are what I remember most vividly: a colouring book each, a box of crayons each, a banana each, an orange each, and some chocolate drops each. Magic! My Mom made our Christmases wonderful, she created the experience completely by herself, it was a one woman effort, and she managed it every year with almost no resources at her disposal. Luckily the media didn’t have much of a grip on our expectations, so that we were left to enjoy the love of the season.

  3. Teri, I’ve often thought of writing fiction, but something keeps me putting it off. I have made forays into writing, when I was in grade six, but my father discouraged me; then again when I was in grade nine, an English teacher was very encouraging, but I got distracted with a boyfriend (a very regrettable distraction I might add); then again when my children were small, I wrote poetry, did readings and published a bit, but the responsibilities of single parenthood wore my energy down to a nub and I’ve not gotten back to it. I may catch a second wind with writing, but I may not, and in the meantime I am enjoying the life I am leading.

    Thanks for the tip re the image, I have been experimenting with the code snippet in the writing software I am using, and although the local preview was fine, it didn’t upload in an acceptable way. Back to the drawing board with that.

    We are giving a small amount of money to each Grandchild, and a book. I intend to continue that practise until they are 18 years of age, then we will see what happens. By that time we will be living our pensionless old age, and I don’t think that buying presents is going to be feasible for us.

  4. I can remember, with love, the presents my Nana always gave us and they were simple: a card with a $10 bill inside. She never wavered. Even until I left our house (she lived in an attic apartment that we had made for her in our Victorian house), at the age of 18, we got that card and the $10 bill. It never occurred to us that the amount should have increased as our ages did so… it was always welcomed.

  5. Bex, what a lovely memory! How lovely that your parents provided for your Nana during her older years. We hope that our Grandchildren get as much out of our gifts to them as you seem to have done from your Nana’s!

    We tried the money last Christmas, took the Grandkids shopping with it, a disaster. There was NOTHING that they wanted with the amount of money we could afford to give them; it did not go well. So this year we will give them the same amount of money, which for us is a significant amount, and which will buy them nothing they would want; and each will get a new book, so that there is something wrapped for them, a title that we read and treasured as children. They have always seemed to like the trinket like gifts we have given them in the past, which warms the heart. Perhaps we will get to read the books to them, now that would be fun! 🙂

  6. Oh, my folks didn’t really “provide for” my Nana. Nana worked almost full-time til she died at 86! She had more energy and get-up-and-go than all of us put together downstairs! Unfortunately, one day she fell and broke a hip and once they opened her up to fix it, she was discovered to have lung cancer (she smoked!) and within a month she was gone. You don’t want to have an open-up surgery if they suspect you have cancer! It makes it spread fast! But Nana paid her fair share of everything and was a health food nut (yes, even while smoking) and shopped for all her foods at a tiny (expensive) health food store in Salem.

  7. Teri

    You know, there are only 2 Christmas presents I strongly remember. The first gave a little girl much joy, though you wouldn’t expect it. I had a battery-run train that would go choo-choo! I very clearly remember delighting in it running around the house.

    The other present is remembered due to a loss of childhood. I received a cotton candy (candy floss) maker from Santa. It didn’t work and my grandmother said she’d have to take it back to the store. And that was the end of the magic of Santa. 🙁

    But the real, enduring memory I have of Christmas isn’t of any present. My love was the 3 blow-up reindeer that we had in the house. They were about 3 feet tall, 2 brown and one white. I loved them. Hugging those blow up reindeer, that was Christmas to me!

  8. I can say Christmas is almost a non holiday for us. No tree or lights or any decorations and I would get the Nativity set out if I could remember where I put it. No little children here so all that sort of thing is just work for me, getting it up and taking it down. I go to Mass and we usually have a good meal, I will send the great grands a little money and that’s about it. Our kids usually send something even tho I have told them repeatedly not to. I remember all my childhood Christmases, many, many family members, lots of food and sweets. At my grandparents’ house, the tree was huge. At an appointed time, we all went outside for fireworks and when we came back in lo and behold, Santa had come and the tree was heaped with gifts. We had seafood on Christmas Eve and usually turkey and ham on the big Day.

  9. Bex, that is amazing about your Nana working, and I assume getting paid, until she was 86. She sounds like quite a character. Thanks for the link to a picture of her, she was a beautiful woman! Advice noted re surgery when cancer is suspected!

  10. Teri, what a delightful image, you hugging the reindeer. What magic childhood holds at times.

    Too bad about finding out that the malfunctioning candy floss machine had to go back to the store. That would be quite a disappointment.

    I don’t know if I ever believed in Santa Clause as a man in a white suit. From the time I was two I knew it was my Mom, I guess I just figured the rest of the world was honouring her, with all the Santa Clause business, but whatever, we thought the whole idea was just great. My Mom was always Santa Clause to me, we were lucky, there were no disappointments.

  11. Ava, your childhood Christmases sound lovely. If you are happy with the way you spend your Christmas, that is all that really counts.

    As an adult I have focused on the food at Christmas, I enjoy the turkey dinner and the mincemeat pie. I like to revisit the feelings that I experienced at Christmas, particularly the love that my Mom put into the day.

    This year I am unable to enjoy food the way I used to, cutting out salt and sugar really affects the meal. So we decided to get a tree and decorate, to shift the focus from food. It might work. Last year after Christmas I purchased favoured Christmas entertainment, movies and shows we watched as kids, watching them brings such warm memories.

  12. What charming, heart warming stories of childhood Christmases! We lived on the very edge of things (financially)as we grew up,but our mother (of 7), always made a huge effort to make sure we had wonderful home-baked goodies, and a beautiful tree.
    She always managed to provide one small gift for each child. I remember her with great love and appreciation for her devotion!

  13. Diane, it is wonderful to hear all the stories that have been shared! Your mother sounds wonderful, your description of the Christmas experiences she created for you and your siblings is very heart warming, so much love!

    The biggest question I always ask myself when conducting myself around other people, and particularly at Christmas time, is, “what would love do?” The answer to that question always leads me where I want to go.

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