A christmas cactus is like a chicken: it has beautiful plummage, gives and gives and asks for little in return. The world's artesian wells may have long since dried up, but nature still supplies fountains of generosity. Somehow this plant survives our minimal attention, then blooms in abundance each fall. Unlike storebought orchids, which clearly require more disciplined care and understanding than we have to give, a christmas cactus seems to accept that we are imperfect, highly distracted human beings with lives to lead and places to be. "Don't worry," it seems to say, year after year. "Water me when you think of it, and in the summer you can put me out on the patio and pretty much forget about me until the fall. No worries. All good, though not too much sun, if you think of it. Thanks. And if a squirrel or the wind knocks me over and some of my stems break? No problem, just
stick them in a pot and make a new plant."
Ours is a secular christmas cactus, blooming as it does during Thanksgiving. Like a volunteer hardwired to serve the community, it needs no coaxing or pampering, but seems intent on making the world a better place, thriving on little more than inner drive and our gratitude.