Five characters (and their guests) in search of something.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Once upon a time, in a vast, sunswept desert, a beautiful, perfect cactus stood. The sun that shone every day upon the arms and prickles of this beautiful, perfect cactus knew what anyone else would if they could see the cactus - that this was a beautiful and perfect cactus. It had perfect form, beautiful shape, wonderous coloring. It's prickers were displayed in constellation-like arrangements. And it stood in the landscape with proud grace and cast ever-changing, ever interesting shadows over the ever-shifting sands below it.

But this cactus was not a joyful cactus. No. It was a sorrowful cactus. Why? Why is anything truly sorrowful? Because they feel alone. The beautiful, perfect cactus knew is was beautiful. It knew it was regal. Yet it disregarded these attributes because it longed for something else - companionship, togetherness, connection, love. It's whole, long life the beautiful, perfect cactus had seen other creatures and things together - clouds in the sky gathering into storms, tumbleweeds rolling off over the ground side-by-side, prairie dogs two or more per hole, horses galloping in herds. But this perfect, beautiful cactus was aware that it stood alone - desolate and silent - and it lamented this relentless state of being.

Not that the beautiful, perfect cactus hadn't tried. Over it's long, hardy life, it HAD attempted to make contact. It had provided shade for passing armadillos only to have them pick up and skitter away when the sun changed it's place in the sky. It had leaned towards resting coyotes to touch them only to prick their fur with it's needles sending them yelping on their way. It had even tried to make friends with snakes but everyone knows you can't make friends with snakes.

So, now, as the long white days stretched on into more long white days, the beautiful cactus resigned itself to a sorrowful life alone. A life of watching it's shadow grow and shrink and move around it's base. A life of witnessing the sky change colors from blue to purple to pink to orange to grey to black. A life of bitter loneliness. This was too much for even a beautiful, perfect cactus to bear. And, so, like all things, weak or strong, when they are confronted with seemingly unbearable pain and dissatisfaction, the beautiful, perfect cactus began to weep. It weeped slowly at first - a trickle here, a trickle there, moisture seeping from one needle, then another. But, soon, convulsions overtook the cactus and it wept uncontrollably - moisture falling like sweat form every needle, every pore. From a distance, the sad and crying cactus looked shiny and reflective since it was covered with so many tears. The tears started to pool around the roots of the cactus causing rivulets to disperse through the sand. Now even the ants and spiders couldn't come near because of the sorrowful floods.

But something happened during this crying spell, something that would prove to be miraculous. The tears also penetrated to the roots of the cactus. They drenched the underground cactus' feet and caused it to tremble. The tears nurtured while they also shocked. The beautiful, perfect cactus started to shake and shiver. It stopped crying and began to feel sick. The shaking and sickness began to rise up through the cactus, through it's foundation, through it's middle, until it concentrated in it's highest, barrel-like arm.

"Oh, what have I done?" worried the cactus. "What now have I brought on to myself? Not only am I lonely but I am sick. Surely, I am going to die."

And then the pain inside the beautiful, perfect cactus' highest arm got more intense. It was the worst ache the cactus had ever felt. Even worse than being alone. And, as it got worse, the cactus felt something even more awful - a splitting in it's skin - a tear. And if it could've cried out, it would have cried out but it was a cactus and, though cactii can shed tears, they cannot scream. But if it could scream, scream it would, for it felt like it's insides were becoming it's outsides.

Finally, the pain eased and the cactus realized that a large beautiful flower had sprouted on it's highest arm. A sweet, readiant expression of the longing it had felt. And no sooner had the flower bloomed than a desert parrot flew by. The desert parrot cawed and admired the cactus' new flower. The cactus smiled and displayed it's new flower proudly. And, surprisingly enough, the parrot landed on the cactus. It found a perch on the cactus, unaffected by prickles, next to the beautiful flower. The parrot perched there and began to sing a love song. The beautiful, perfect cactus was so happy to finally have a friend - the attention of something - and the parrot was ecstatic to have something beautiful in this arid landscape to sing about.

Well, as it happens, a lovely woman from Berkeley, California was travelling with some friends through the desert at this exact time. And this woman loved cactii - especially beautiful, perfect ones. And she loved birds - especially parrots. When this woman from Berkeley, California saw the beautiful, perfect cactus with the beautiful, perfect flower being perched upon by the beautiful, singing parrot, she knew just what she wanted to do. She got all her friends to carefully dig up the cactus and load it into the back of her red, Maserati pick-up truck. She also invited the parrot to sit on her shoulder which it did. They all drove back to the woman's garden in Oaxaca - for that was where she was staying at the time. The beautiful, perfect cactus was planted in the ground in a courtyard busy with friends and family of the woman. And the parrot was placed back on the cactus near the beautiful flower. So, from then on, the beautiful, perfect cactus was never lonely, it was admired and loved and comforted in a garden and had the singing of a parrot to last it's days.


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