The Daily Beauty: Prickly Pear in Bloom

Outside the UVa Bookstore, atop the Emmett Street parking garage, there are two sad concrete planters containing two much-abused plants: opuntiae, or prickly pear cactus.

Temps on that brick and concrete walk are glacially cold in winter and must soar over 100 degrees in the hottest part of the summer. And I’ve never seen anyone water them or pay the slightest attention to them.

And yet, yesterday, this was the word the much abused prickly pear sang to the world:

That's right, we're blooming!

That’s right, we’re blooming!

The blossoms here were not fully open, but I could have never imagined that those succulent green paddles could produce flowers in such exquisite peaches, such a buttery creamy yellow.

“Life remains a blessing although you cannot bless,”  W.H. Auden wrote in one of my favorite poems of his, “As I Walked Out One Evening.” But as moving as the line is in the context of a poem that’s about finding meaning amid a broken landscape of sorrow and loss, I now think …

… the impulse, whatever we call it, that lights a candle in the dark of our hearts is much more active than that. Its blessing is not a state of being–it is an action. A bloom amid a desert of concrete. That’s not passive–it’s an affirmation.

And thank God for it, for how could we otherwise live?