Our neighbor's father died last night after a brief but ravaging illness.
The usual laughter rising over the fence has been missing the last few weeks, and I suspect it will be some time before it returns.
An earlier thunderstorm cleaned the air, as they do in Jersey, and the azure dusk sky marked the last few hours of June. My tiny pond was already wrapped in gray shadows, everything but the sky bled of color except for the occasional cool fire of a lightning bug.
The end of June marks the start of the dying of the light, punctuated by the mourning next door.
I turned to go back inside, then turned back again. I did not want June to end.
On top of the stockade fence separating our yards is a small platform I built a couple of years ago, a place for my potted plants to grab a little more light. (A maple tree keeps growing, and my garden now falls under its shade.)
A forgotten prickly pear sits in a cracked pot--I've had it for years, given to me by a friend I've not chatted with in a long while. After winter the plant looks dead, shriveled, and every year it surprises me.
I gazed up over the fence to catch the last blue light of the fading sky, and my eye caught a hint of yellow on top of the fence.
The prickly pear had flowered, first time ever.
I can hypothesize about the why. I can postulate that the extra light the cactus now gets triggered some photoperiodic phenomenom. I could look up some articles on the internet to sate my curiosity.
But I won't.
I know this much--an good man who has led a good life dies, and before the next sunset, a cactus that felt the vibrations of the man's voice bloomed.
I also know that the flesh of this cactus holds some of the carbon that once flowed in this man's blood--parts of the flower came from inside his mitochondria, in the deepest cells in his body when he still breathed.Literally.
I have my own private beliefs concerning this particular cactus blooming this particular hour.
It's easy to watch the symphony of life outside, as though we're not part of all this, as though we're special, immortal.
We are not.
I need to call the person who broke off the cactus pad years ago, plopped it on a pot, and assured me it would grow. June is almost gone. It's later than I realize.
Prickly pear photo by the EPA, 1972, in the public domain via the National Archives.