I have so little connection to my own past. I moved about 20 times, abandoned my family in some ways to move to the country. I have no friends I have known longer than a year years My sister is the only person I ever speak to from my original family, my daughter the only connection to the life I lived for a generation.
I am in touch with none of the hundreds of good people I worked with in more than a dozen different jobs. Disturbed, angry and frightened, I tore through so much of my life, always able to get a good job, move up, make money and then run. It was a long time before I realized the person I was running from was me, the person I was angry at was me. I was a genius at seeming well but being sick and broken inside.
Nobody could see it from the outside, including me, at least for awhile.
In the past six or seven years, I have been rebuilding my life. I got help, faced the truth, undertook to do the hard, hard work of recovery and rebirth. You cannot become someone other than yourself, but you can certainly be a better, happier and healthier self. I faced the truth, found life, heard the very hard news about me from good and tough and professional helpers. I broke my heart a million times, and the hearts of many others. I turned to the creativity inside of me for salvation to a wonderful woman for trust and companionship.
I was not well, I was determined to get better. This is work that will never be done, never be over. It is not up to others to be responsible for the life that is mine, or to be blamed for it, it is up to me. It is the mission and purpose of the rest of my life. Fate has given me a partner to help me on this journey, and life has given me the opportunity.
The goal of my life is to be whole, to do good, to be authentic, to be creative, to love well and live simply.
This morning, Maria reminded me of the cactus sitting on the porch. I had forgotten it, of course, I have always forgotten things I can't see right in front of me. But it is so important to me in different ways. The cactus in the middle is from the cabin found when I first came to upstate New York about 16 years ago. It was in the cabin on Colfax Mountain where I wrote "Running To The Mountain."
I don't care much for cactus plants, they seem ugly to me and out of place in the country, but I cared lovingly for this one, and brought it from my cabin to the farm in Hebron, watered it from time to time, kept it near the sun. For all of the years I had the plant in the cabin or in Hebron, my cactus plant never grow, not an inch. Since we moved to our current home together, the plant has doubled in size – the section on top is all new, since we came here.
What explanation for that can there possible be? Can plants sense people, and respond to them. I feel as if my unloved cactus – it is loved now – is cheering me on, growing with me.
The taller cactus on the right is Maria's, she bought it when she was in high school. The two small cactus plants in front were in our farmhouse, they were owned by Florence Walrath, about the only thing that wasn't sold off or removed. These cactus plants were jammed into a small old white pot, which now holds a different plant in our dining room windowsill. Maria saved them, she cut them up, gave them space and light.
I didn't even notice that she had done it, I never thought about these plants. I am so conditioned to shedding the past.
I was very much struck by her intuitive decision to bring these three things together, put them in one pot. They have all thrived. In the summer, they get to take in the sun out on the porch. In the winter, they come inside and sit by the windows. Small miracles, all three.
These are the only three things that connect me, Maria and Florence Walrath, that tie us both to one another, that tie me to my past, to one another, to the present and to the future.I don't own a single thing from the house I lived in in Montclair, New Jersey for nearly 25 years, where my daughter grew up and I began to write, not even my grandmother's dining room table, or the Chagall print my mother gave me on my first wedding day. I couldn't bear to take any of it with me, I didn't ask for one thing when I got divorced, I don't know what happened to it or where it is.
Perhaps I needed to shed my past to get my life back.
The past is too painful for me, except for my daughter, my life began after those things when I came to awareness and faced the wrenching tasks of seeking authenticity and healing myself.
The Connection Cactus is here for a reason, it reminds me who I have been, where I have been, and where I am and wish to be. I am just beginning to grasp the power of the natural world, the magical helpers – animals, trees, plants, flowers, light, my dogs – that have guided me and helped to save me.
I will not forget the Community Cactus again. Perhaps it will end up one day in my granddaughter's house, she may wonder about the strange man she heard so many stories about but never really got to know.