Saturday, September 03, 2005

Waiting in the Dark

(Left: A thirty+ year old night-blooming cereus cactus.)

Last evening, I sat in the dark outside, waiting. As I sat there, I thought of the people who were doing the same thing in New Orleans, in Mississippi, in Alabama and the rest of the Gulf Coast and how differently the emotions surrounding our vigils would be made manifest.

The people of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast are waiting for food, for water, for medical supplies, and shelter. They are waiting to find out if they will survive or not. Their bodies are stressed in physical ways, but just not-knowing what is happening can push a body to illness and death. They are waiting to find out if they will be evacuated, split up from their families, moved away and for how long. I feel strongly for them. It could have been us here in North Carolina.

I remember sitting in the heat in my home in northeastern Orange County after Hurricane Fran had devastated the infrastructure in the area. I had no electricity and therefore, no water from the well. Temperatures were in the range of 90-100º F (around 37ºC most of the time) and humidity was just about as high. There was nothing to do but sit and wait for the restoration of my electricity, but I was sitting in relative luxury and didn’t have much structural damage to my home. It only took a week for us to get our power restored. It could have been worse for me had I lived nearer the coast as do most members of my family and the people of the affected areas of the Gulf.

Last night, I was awaiting the opening of the flowers of my night-blooming cereus cactus, a plant that blooms at night, only a few times a year during the late summer. The flowers are beautiful white stars the size of a man’s hand and their splaying is a spectacular sight as they suddenly burst open a few petals at a time. I was given the plant over thirty years ago by a family of very religious Baptists who called it the “Jesus in the Manger” cactus. The blooming of this plant is a reminder to me of my heritage, of my home, of my childhood friends. Their blooms give hope and reminders of beauty.

I was waiting to see flowers bloom, while in the ruins of New Orleans, people were waiting to find out what will remain of their lives. They cling to hope and desperately seek something to offer them comfort.

(Left: Two opened blooms from a night-blooming cereus cactus. Double-click on the image for larger detail.)



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