Today many churches celebrate All Saints/All Souls day. While the actual days are November 1 and 2, most of us do not attend church each day of the week, so many of these smaller feast days are transferred to the nearest Sunday.
I’m pondering all souls in a rather different way today. All Souls Day is a day of prayer for all deceased souls. I’m extending it, in my own heart, to pray for all of God’s deceased creation. I’m beginning with the personal, because I’m grieving the loss of a particular cactus.
Part of the joy of my morning walks is the beauty of the desert flora in our neighborhood. I frequently posted photos on Instagram of the gorgeous blossoms and fruit of one particular cactus that I believe belonged to the cereus family. I’ve watched a bird build a nest in the midst of it, lay eggs, raise tiny babies, and leave the nest behind. This cactus stood probably over ten feet tall and had many healthy branches. The other day, I walked down that street to see what was happening there, and the cactus was gone.
Yes, gone. Not fallen, not broken, not cut off at the base. It has disappeared, as if it had never been there at all. In the photo above, it used to rise from the ground in front of the two bear grass plants on the right. Now there’s nothing there except some black drip-system tubes.
I was surprised by the instantaneous sense of grief I felt—and then I wasn’t. Each of God’s creations is precious in its own right—yes, even mosquitoes (although I admit to having more difficulty in finding them to be good companions)! That cactus has given me much joy and delight over the past year or so, and I will miss it. (And, in its memory, I will share some of that joy by posting pictures of it over the next week on Instagram).
I don’t know these neighbors and have never seen them out in the yard, so I doubt I will have a chance to find out what happened. It’s possible that some vandals or malicious kids pulled down the plant or hacked at it with a machete and it had to be removed. It’s possible that some of the strong winds from a recent storm knocked it over. It’s possible that it spontaneously broke (as happened with a much smaller, but also loved, plant outside my office window on the day I drafted this post!). It’s possible that new folks moved in (there was a For Rent sign up at that house a while ago), just didn’t like it, and took it out.
I will likely never know what happened. I just know that part of my neighborhood community is gone.
I don’t know whether cacti have souls. Certainly they impact my soul. I will grieve this cactus on All Souls Day because we are all part of one intricate web of life. That cactus and I were particularly closely tied together. Other parts of our one web of life also deserve my attention, even if they are hundreds or thousands of miles away. I think of the devastation wrought by each hurricane in this deadly season. I think of those who are still struggling to rebuild community and replant vegetation after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, more than a year ago. I think of all the trees destroyed by wildfires in California this year. I could go on, and on, and on….
We are all one web of community. What losses in that web are you grieving? Where and how might you plant or establish new life within that web?