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Summer’s brazenness fleshes out in marigolds—reds, oranges, golds, and yellows—drought-resistant annuals that have brightened my front garden for years. With proper care, a single bloom can last for several days boasting in the sun; its inevitable shriveling and browning slows down its gossip until silenced by pruning shears: Snip-snip-snip. Within a few days, more buds jostle in breezes until full flowering picks up July’s chuckles and their chatter resumes.

Taught by gardeners to angle my shears for strategic cuts, I snipped away, summer after summer, tingling with creative energy as new shapes appeared among the plants, soon to plump out with buds. But my present circumstances have led me to put away my shears and let another help with the marigolds. I’m grateful.

My own pruning is well underway, and I live within the shorn limits of my eighty-four years; within them, I continue flourishing, not without occasional squalls of fear: eruption of new symptoms from Dexamethasone, the correction of dark dreams, episodes of nausea, spills, and so much more—all of which prompt me to ask for help, critical for the continuing effectiveness of the pruning. How else learn about humility?

Such deepens my faith in the Master Gardiner who reminds us in John 15:2 that Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

It is for this fruit that I yearn.

 

It stood tall, wrapped with holiday paper and ribbons; inside was a Christmas cactus, its pink tubular blossoms contrasting with the glossy flat-shaped leaves called cladoles. This was in 2004, a gift from my now deceased brother and his wife in 2004.

Years passed. My houseplant, potted beneath my study window, multiplied in size and repeated its annual winter flowering for two weeks. During that time, a curious joy filled me. I remembered the givers of this gift and the flowering of their forty-four years of marriage, blood-red in fidelity and courage.

Again this holiday season, my heart warms as even more blossoms on my Christmas cactus bow their branches toward the hardwood floor. Indeed, there is a  strange epiphany in this: the fragile beauty of blooms emerging from tips of pincer-like claws.

 

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