Monday, December 30, 2013

blooming at Christmas

blooming at Christmas
green pads shoot off red rockets
for northern New Year's

My son's Christmas cactus started blooming at Thanksgiving, kept up a barrage of blossoms at Christmas and is still shooting off red rockets for the New Year. Here in North America we call this plant "Christmas cactus" because it conveniently blooms around the holiday season and sports bright colors of green and red in vivid contrast to the snowy world outside. Schlumbergera is actually an immigrant from South America, where it is called "Flor de Maio" because it blooms in May. 
          This thornless, leafless plant with flat truncated stems doesn't look anything like our usual image of desert cactus. That's because its home is the moist coastal mountains of southeastern Brazil, where it grows on mossy tree limbs or in the humus-filled pockets of rocks. There, the nectar-filled, tubular red flowers attract hummingbirds, which pollinate the flowers. The fertilized flowers produce fleshy fruits that are eaten by birds, which then distribute the seeds.
          So here sits our pot-bound transplant in a south-facing windowsill, blooming its heart out in the middle of a Midwestern winter, no hummingbirds in sight. It may live for years and years, perhaps being passed down to another family member, without ever reproducing. But still, it gives great joy to all who behold its magical transformation from a rather homely plant into a fabulous fountain of flashy blossoms.

Friday, December 20, 2013

reflection of used books

reflection of used books
cast onto a stone wall --
petrified paper

We are sitting around an old round oak table by the front window of Revelations, a used bookstore and restaurant just north of the town square. The combination of inexpensive reading material and good food makes it a popular hangout. Right now the place is packed with Christmas shoppers and people socializing during the holidays. I'm doing both, still on the lookout for a few last-minute gifts among the packed book shelves while having lunch with friends.
          The walls are lined with used books waiting to be adopted. You can almost hear them begging, "Take me!" Popular, timeless volumes pass through many hands, whereas outdated technical editions sit forlornly gathering no more attention than the penetrating aroma of wood fired pizza.
          But who still reads printed books? We are, perhaps, the last generation. One of my sons, who does still read paper books but spends a lot of time on planes, told me, "If you're going to get me a book, make it a Kindle version." 
          There are no ebooks at Revelations. Nothing's virtual here, except perhaps the eerie reflection of paper books projected by the soft light of a lamp through plate glass onto the stone wall of the entrance. Ghost books hovering just outside a bookstore, very close to being something without actually being it. Petrified fossils from an ancient age. People coming and going pass quickly through the virtual images without absorbing a single word.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

sleepy snow eyes

sleepy snow eyes
opening on a world turned 
white overnight

On Friday the 13th, freezing rain, followed by snow. In the morning I go out to clear the windshield, laughing to see the half-lidded "eyes" on the pickup truck cover. 

Snow lies crumpled on the slanted windows where it slid down the slick panes. 

In town, a lone sycamore leaf lies beside a water runoff grate, the last leaf of fall on the first snow of winter.      

Thursday, December 5, 2013

casting cloud shadows

casting cloud shadows 
contrails back lit at sunset
crisscross the cobalt sky

Blazing sunsets lately, as if to make up for less daylight and more cold as the sun heads south for the winter. In response to increasing darkness, we multiply our lights, inside and out. Driving home, I pass houses, lamp posts, bushes and trees decorated with blinking strands of white, red, green and blue. At home I prefer the radiance of real fire to cold electric lights. I stoke up the wood burning stove, light a few candles and sit to enjoy the mesmerizing dance of yellow flames on logs and the summery scent of beeswax.