The barrel cacti are blooming here in the Sonoran Desert. They are the latest in a long string of flowering plants that take their turn over the course of the year. The blooming season basically lasts almost all year, regulated more by rain than by temperature.

In rather stark contrast, the blooming season in the mountains of Colorado is pretty short. As I noted last week, I recently spent a few days in the Rocky Mountains, where the brief flowering season is on full display. I took literally hundreds of photos of various flowers and will post some of them on Instagram this coming week.

Mountain plants know they have a short window for blossoming before the snows return (a quarter inch of snow fell at my parents’ place on the first day of summer this year!). As the hours of daylight increase and the weather warms, plants all put their energy into flowering, at the same time, in order to ensure the survival of the species.

In contrast, desert plants have developed a rhythm of sorts. Carpets of wildflowers, spurred on by winter rains, burst forth in abundant anticipation of spring, beginning in February. Some cacti and trees begin flowering in March and the ocotillos blosssom in April, when the palo verde trees also begin to bloom. May brings prickly pear and saguaro blossoms, while summer wildflowers begin to appear with the July monsoon rains. Barrel cacti bloom in August and September, along with imported species like the gorgeous Peruvian apples. Many trees bloom well into fall if the monsoons have brought abundant rainfall.

I imagine that this natural rhythm developed in sync with birds, bats, and bees, which benefit from having a series of flowers to feast upon throughout the year. This cycle allows hummingbirds to stay here year-round (supplemented, of course, by innumerable backyard feeders!).

So, what does all this have to do with the spiritual life? Like nature, we develop different rhythms and cycles over the course of our lives. Some of us are like those mountain wildflowers, hunkering down for much of the year before bursting forth in flowering glory during a few short weeks. Others of us find our place in a year-round cycle, blossoming in our turn, alongside others. Some of us eagerly embrace longer days and warmer weather, while others patiently await intermittent rainfall.

We flower differently as well. Some of us put all our energy into a single blossom, while others hedge their bets with dozens of flowers. Some flowers last just a single day (or night), while others remain vibrant and colorful for days. Some of us blossom a single time each season, while others keep flowering again and again, as long as conditions remain supportive.

We do all of this, in our own way, as individual members of a broader community. We contribute our part to the web of life, one spiritual blossom at a time.

How do you blossom? What are your flowering patterns? What creatures (birds, bats, bees, or humans) benefit from your flowers?

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