People like Cacti

To celebrate scoring my first freelancing gig based on my resume and writing skills alone, my husband bought me a few cacti, a Ming Thing and Fairy.

Fairy Cactus

I’ve always figured that cacti required very little care. I mean, they only stand at attention in the hot desert sun all day. They don’t ever get rain, and life is always good.

That was a few weeks ago. Today, I bought a planter and prepared to transplant them.

I was amazed at the plethora of sites with instructions to transplant cacti. And, you guessed it, none of the sites had plain, simple instructions that were the same as the instructions on another site.

One site recommended a clay pot and three layers of soil: gravel, soil, and sand. Another said to just dump the very special soil you can purchase in the pot one-third full. Another talked about using a transportable pot so you could keep it inside or outside depending on the weather.

I was stunned when it came to roots. One site taught how to transplant just a stem (or is it leaf) with no roots. Other sites said to knock all the dirt off the roots of an existing cactus and transplant the roots right away. Another said to knock the dirt off, set the cactus on its side in the shade with the south side still facing south for 24 hours, and then place the cactus in its new home. Yet another, without images, suggested cutting off roots affected by root rot and waiting until the limbs healed for 24 hours before putting the cactus in its new home.

Avoiding the needles was another chore. One site said to loop around the cactus with a rope or rubber hose. Another suggested tubing a towel and using it to gently wrap the cactus. A third had the audacity to suggest using my good kitchen tongs or a serving spoon to either pluck the plant or just dig it out.

After an hour of headache-inducing research, I figured my husband had probably spent all of $10 for some small tokens of appreciation and affection. The worst I could do was kill them, and he wouldn’t care either way.

So… I filled the pot two-thirds full of the dirt and left deep holes in the new planter for both cacti. I looped a paper towel to use for moving the cacti without jabbing myself. I tried to keep the cacti with the same sides facing the sun as I moved them.

I ran into a snag — these plants that supposedly had no or limited roots were root bound! I didn’t know what to do. I used the edge of a pot to gently knock off chunks of dense dirt. Then I tried to tap the edges of the roots loose lightly, hoping that somehow I really had healthy roots and wasn’t permanently damaging them. And it was both plants. I couldn’t believe it.

My poor Ming Thing lost all her flowers because of the motion; however, I suspect glue was used to apply the flowers, which may not have grown by the doing of the Ming Thing. I’m wondering if my Fairy has the same issue.

I put both plants in their holes and packed the dirt all around. And now I wait. 10 days, 21 days, 30 days… I’m not sure how long I have to wait before giving the cacti fresh water. I know I will kill them if I do it too soon. I’m just not sure how soon is too soon.

Then, all day, I found myself wondering how people were like cacti.

How many of our friends look like they need very little to survive and thrive? They stand at attention in the desert sun of life, doing well no matter whether it’s a job crisis, health crisis, or their family is disintegrating. We see the flowers of jokes and laughs and family gatherings and job announcements from a distance, and we think all is well.

But I wonder how they would look if somehow supernaturally we could transplant them.

Are they root bound? Deep down, do they have more electronic connection than human connection?

Oh, they can quote you Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections (and even Medium followers). However, when you invite them over for dinner, turn off all the electronics in your home, and ask them to dump all their electronics in a bowl away from the entertainment area, they don’t know what to do and descend into uncomfortable silence.

Instead of staring into windows for electrons, they would have to look into the eyes of others, the windows of the soul. They would have to make a statement and explain it, not just click Like or Love.

Are they yellowed by over-watering? That is, are their brains so bombarded by information that they can’t begin to process and organize life?

They can share the results of 15 studies, but they can’t tell you how to identify good information and apply it to make life-improving changes. They can tell you the outcomes of seven crime trials, but they can’t tell you they feel sad and exhausted by all the bad news of global hardship.

Do they prick you with their spines if you get too close? Do they have some habit or quirk that you just can’t stand?

I get driven nuts by people who complain incessantly, despite the fact I do understand solving a problem is a process and not everyone progresses at the same rate; also, I’d rather hear nails on a chalkboard than someone who talks too much.

And I’m told my crudity and vulgarity sometimes drives my husband and other people nuts; that is, a polished, professional young woman just shouldn’t sound like that, no matter what (even after layoff, double dead cars, house fire, health issues all within six months… but I digress).

And if someone complains to me about my crudity and sarcasm… well, no one’s happy and we’re in danger of World War III.

Maybe this is just too much thinking for one day… but maybe, for me at least, it’s going to be poem fodder. I’m going to create a poem about my likeness to a cactus:

How do I resemble a human cactus… let me spike the ways. I prick thee with the sharpness of my angry words in every day and every way with the very depths of all the sarcasm of my soul. I love thee the very opposite of the amount of love-water you give me and rot my brain with all the words and ideas that you share… I drown you in the water of my ever-present physicality and desire for real human connection devoid of smart devices…

Then again, maybe not.