Blooms in Winter – Faith Amid the Darkness

My mother’s plant has not bloomed for a long time, years she thinks. She gave it to us when she moved and it sits in the front window which faces south. The sun is lower in the southern sky during the winter since we live in the northern hemisphere. The light is weak and this plant doesn’t need much water, a little every two weeks, just enough to make it damp.

Yet, surprise of all surprises, it bloomed!

The Schlumbergera rarely blooms, needing 12 hours of darkness for buds to form.

The Schlumbergera rarely blooms, needing 12 hours of darkness for buds to form.

I sent my mother photos and she was positively giddy, prattling on about good luck and such a happy omen. It turns out, that this plant is Schlumbergera, more commonly known as a Holiday Cactus or Christmas Cactus, which explains a lot. I have a black thumb and dead plants are usually the norm in our home, though not this beauty. The cactus requires at least 12 hours of darkness for bud formation, an ideal requirement at New England’s latitude.

Sunrise today was 7:12 AM and sunset is 4:26 PM, so that is just 9 hours and 14 minutes of sunlight, or conversely 14 hours and 46 minutes of darkness, and we’re approaching the darkest day of the year.

[The Christmas Cactus] can be damaged by exposure to more than small amounts of sunlight. (Wiki Source)

Why does this plant show its beauty only during the bleakest time of the year? I’m not a gardener, but I find it heartening that such beauty thrives, indeed requires, extended darkness. Maybe it is here to remind us about something important in our own existence.

Not long after observing the flowers with a household of now attentive fans, I noticed a loose sheet stuck inside a music book. Receiving even less care than the cactus, the book had been knocked to the side of the stand. So I pulled out this sheet which had been folded in half. What was most interesting about it was the handwritten name in a young cursive script. The name in the upper right hand corner is Kyle.

I don’t know where this music came from or who wrote the name on it.  I don’t know any children named Kyle, except one. I didn’t really know him, but this fall we joined his family on the Light the Night Walk in Stamford to remember him. Kyle left this earthly existence two years ago in December and he was just 11 years old. He would have been 13 today. When we walked through the canvas tunnel and along the water, I saw his sweet and smiling face in a photo and wondered why such things happen.

What does it all mean? What it is to have faith, to believe? To know that the bud will bloom? I struggle with this and I struggle with the “answers.” My children have Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist heritage – we’re Chris-Bu-Jews and the spiritual path we’re walking on meanders, diverges, stops, crosses back over, and goes in circles.

Here’s something I do know. Ten thousand daffodils on a spring day do not have the brilliance of these pale pink flowers, blooming in the darkest season of the year, shining brightly in the loneliest hours.

Christmas Cactus in December

Christmas Cactus in December

Perhaps it’s like my mother says and they’re good luck. However long they last, they’re time here is short, but glorious. They touch us in immeasurable ways. The music book was an inherited ‘gift’ from my husband’s mom. It was her book actually, with tabs on favorite fiddle pieces, and the sheet music with Kyle’s name on it, is “Jesus Loves Me.”

**  In the video below, I played this song on the lever harp for Kyle and his family.

End of first verse: Little ones to Him belong / They are weak but He is strong.

End of third verse: Jesus says, “Let them come to Me.”

Kyle's Song

Here is Kyle’s song on my level harp.