Dylan and His Cactus Plant
I was over in the retreat house and had brought my camera with me. It was snowing, which is a rare event here, and I wanted to take some photographs of the gardens adjacent to the retreat house. I walked into the parlor, near the front door, and a young boy was standing there, near the door, looking out at the falling snow. He turned to me and smiled and in his hands he held a small cactus. He raised it and smiled and said that he bought it in our store and how nice Father Gerard was, the monk who sold it to him. “He told me that a flower will bloom from it, right at the top.” And with his gloved finger, he pointed to just where the flower will sprout.
I asked his name and he said “Dylan.” And he smiled again. I think that the falling snow added a special glow to his face and eyes. I asked if I could take his picture and he said he would like that, so we went into a large room and he never let go of the cactus. I took several pictures of him. Natalya, a regular guest to our retreat house, stood nearby and commented on how beautiful was Dylan’s cactus and that she was sure that the flower, when it sprouted, would be just as beautiful. Natalya is from
I do not know if I will ever see Dylan again. A lot of people come through our retreat house and, as Guest Master, I am privileged to meet them and chat with many of them, if only briefly. There are those with whom I talk with at more length. Some of the encounters grow into friendships, though such gifts are not possible to tell at the outset. Friendship evolves and blooms, according to its own beauty and pattern.
Someone recently wrote to me and in the letter she included a commentary on one of my other photographs. It was a color photo of a tree. I took the picture in autumn and there are shades of browns and greens and yellows, all visible in the leaves of the tree. She wrote of shades of human life, shades that spoke to her from the colors of the leaves. Everything in life seems to be a living icon – trees and colors, stones and walls, bridges and cacti, mismatched gloves and a young boy’s double joy of a tree in his hands and the sight of falling snow. The picture I have of Dylan is silent and yet there were words from Natalya that prompted his smile. Well, photographs do not say what they are about – but is it not true that they do kind of speak? They tell us something.
Voices surround us. Voices well from within. The colors and shades of life form for many a pattern of love, of beauty. We speak words of encouragement to each other, putting each other at ease. All the shades of life that hit us from all side and shine on everything and everyone bespeak a pattern, a design of intricate love.
I hope the flower on Dylan’s cactus blooms and I hope it is beautiful. He is young, and probably will not remember the words spoken to him by Natalya, words that made him smile, made him at ease. I hope he always is given that in life. Maybe he will become fascinated with growth – the growth of a cactus that he held in his hands, the growth that was and is the world about him.
He may think the monastery to be a strange place. I do not know. We did not speak about that. But I do know that he saw the beauty of falling snow here and was grateful for the kind and encouraging words of Father Gerard and Natalya. And so he smiled and held a gift that he hopes will bloom.
We hold Creation, this gift from God. We hold it in our hands and hearts, with mismatched gloves and smiles. It will all bloom, someday. The best of voices tell us that. The voices of God, in all its tones and shades, asking us to be still and to trust what we hold. Listen to love, in every room of life. Hold and offer every gift you have been given. Time is the blossom of God, held in the hands of a little boy, who waits for its flower. Mismatched words, perhaps, like a Dylan’s differently colored gloves. But it is how we must hold onto what we have, and each other, as the colors speak, and the poets write of what the trees say and what the heart needs to know.