There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen
A year ago I discovered half-closed blossoms bigger than my hand covering a small tree, stunning flowers on plain, prehistoric looking cactus tendrils entwined through the branches. ‘Oh, the night blooming cereus opened last night,’ a woman behind me said. She took me to a large oak engulfed with similar vines, small nubs furred with what looked like coarse gray dog hair pocked along their length. I learned the nubs would stretch into thick reddish stems, push a large teardrop bud out at the ends. That I had to go to the tree the very night the buds plumped. Nothing prepared me for the miraculously beautiful sight of an entire tree draped, roots to the ends of its furthest limbs, in an abundance of 8” blooms. The white petals felt like feathers, the abundant yellow stamens baby-soft. I took pictures, vowed to remember, because the whole show played just once a year, at dark night. By 8am the blooms would close, drop their heads.
But I missed the night display this past week. Not because they came early, which they did, but because I forgot to feel the excitement of anticipation, head out in the late late night. I stood before the fading display the morning after, wondered at myself for finding the splendor in the waning blossoms less than when I first found them a year before. Wondered at thinking them not quite as fine as when they glowed wide-bright in the night. I even noted there weren’t as many on the tree this year, as if that lessened their magic. I’ve experienced peak perfection, I thought. And immediately saw what I was doing. I was dismissing this year’s grandeur with comparison, not appreciating the divine before me. These, no different in their life progression than the gorgeous sculptures of disintegrating tulips and insides of broken conchs, the rugged ocean battered beauty of aged shells that I love.
It wasn’t because I couldn’t possess their impermanence, either. For they’re no different than other beauty I can’t hold – changing light across the bay, the turning of trees through seasons, the birds and clouds. I realized I’d somehow projected my perfectionism for myself, my current angst of not in right time, not the right output, not good enough onto the stunning flowers that help us see their prehistoric looking host differently 364 days a year.
Three days later, the sun barely up, the sky spread flat, uninspiring, I left the bay earlier than usual to walk home. Halfway up the walk I turned, saw pink, pale yellow, the biggest.sun.ever over the water. And something otherworldly happened. I was transported to Wonderland.
Light shown with a difference reminiscent of New Mexico, what I imagine in Provence. Every street I looked down was a tunnel to somewhere shining at the end. Wherever I looked, color popped, was intensely 3-D against the hundred shades of green and brown around it. Lit lamps floated before buildings. Small white flowers hovered mid-air, glowing. Purple cloth, a pale lemon umbrella, hot pink chair danced in front of dirty white stucco. Daisies on thread stalks, brilliant yellow splats on a red-dirt colored wall. Subtleties were painterly, the brush strokes luscious. And sunlight cut through like timed spotlights, illuminated a patch of peach wall in the shadows, hot orange-red palm tassels overhead, and ahead, lit bright, the entire tall trunk of a tree covered with the limp drooping heads of night blooming cereus.
Rumi says the wound is the place where the Light enters you. I say sometimes it takes a gift like a trip thru Wonderland to open your eyes. Perfection’s everywhere, every moment. The big secret. . .we define it.
Tell me. . .you see that, too, don’t you?
The morning after
Another journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writers Life.
A secret: I really was in Wonderland.
A favorite: Wonderland