A pink cactus flowers every four years in certain climates; but it can be a rare event in a withering life. Everything important, everything surrounding that life is set aside in the anticipation of this flowering, probably the last it would ever witness. An irrepressible agitation, an air of waiting surrounds the life then, as if for the first shard of darkness to break and let in a stream of daylight, as one paces up and down, illuminated by the thoughts of what is to come, and embracing the delight of what already is. This blooming of the pink cactus is a rare joy that pushes into oblivion all that had ever mattered, all that would ever matter.
In the book i am reading, Colette’s Break of Day, she mentions a letter from her mother in response to an invitation by Colette’s husband. Her mother had politely turned down the invitation because she was seventy six and awaiting the bloom of her pink cactus that might occur any day soon, a phenomenon she might not have the opportunity to witness again, given its cycle of four long years and her advancing age. Colette found this eagerness and sense of wonder, this independence from obligations, duties and human bonds to focus on just what gives her joy, as highly remarkable and inspirational.
Her mother died the following year, and Colette writes about her, “Whenever I feel myself inferior to everything about me, threatened by my own mediocrity, frightened by the discovery that a muscle is losing its strength, a desire its power or a pain the keen edge of its bite, I can still hold up my head and say to myself: ‘I am the daughter of the woman who wrote that letter.'”
She wondered what her mother, had she been alive, would recognize as the pink cactus in Colette’s life; the rare joy worth waiting for, worth being cared for by devoted hands; and she realized it was none other than the thin shadow that slipped into her life, the man she loves as she lies awake at the break of a new day.
What is the metaphorical pink cactus in my life? Is it a person? Is it a passion? Last night i stayed awake late searching for an answer. Is a person worth such unsullied devotion in this unpredictable world? I am selfish, and verily so in my desire to get what i feel i deserve; not a man of extra-ordinary talents or calibre, but just a man who gets me and my weird life, has the same innate restlessness, who allows me to love him and loves me just as much in return. But love doesn’t grow on trees, and one can never be sure of its enduringness. Can I love a child as much? I can and i have. It is a possibility that witnessing a little life bloom in this world, nurturing it and protecting it might become a part of the pink cactus. Someday.
Dare I center my life around a relationship? Never. I am sure that human bonds, with their fragility, would never be enough to provide that streak of rare joy in my life. I need a passion too. My medical career will always be what i have to do, a path that I had chosen when I was barely even thinking for myself, when I had gone with the flavour of the season, conforming to the wishes of those around me. I would be devoted to it always, and it is immensely satisfying to be of help and save other lives; but it would never be my pink cactus; it will always be my job. It would always be a job. Books are my lifelong companions, but reading is majorly a passive activity, involving just the imagination to erect thoughts that are fed by others’ words. It has nothing of my own despite the joy it gives me. Travelling is a close contender to be someday the passion half of my pink cactus. The thrill of exploring the unknown, of keeping a little bag packed always, of hearing strange tongues, of letting new foods melt in my palate, of discovering the familiar in the unfamiliar, of re-affirming that it is indeed a small world, of finding my way back, and of coming home; it is packed with the same agitation and yearnings of a metaphorical wait for the pink cactus. Or dare I hope that someday it might be writing?