Agave Americana

In Personal on 2013/09/02 at 23:38

As my grandmother lay semi-concious, dying slowly and quietly in her hospital bed, the century plant at the gardens was blossoming.

I imagine its lifetime of waiting, dormant beneath the glass of the greenhouse with the other succulents. A proud burst of agave, massive and immobile, its growth slow and plodding and barely noticable over the decades.

The stalk hit the ceiling within the first days of the start of its strange final chapter, erupting out of its once full base—now wilting beneath the thickening trunk which continued growing far above the hole they had to cut through the pane of the conservatory for it. It was a futile exercise, as are the behaviours of many domesticated specimens. The pollinators it might attract would never cross another of its kind to mix its desert genes into the code for a new generation of patient and thirsty flora. Whatever seed it might spread on the wind would find no suitable home outside the artificial desert room in the middle of the bustling, temperate city.

Yet, despite its futility, I still found that stalk; a reminder both of the plant’s long life and its impending death, beautiful and proud. Like Zarathustra’s solitary and defiant tree standing by the sea, “a living lighthouse of invincible life.” Here was living and here was dying. A long project at last fulfilled, a grand gesture, an eruption of effort after a great preparation.

The whole event lasted only a few weeks. As I looked at the drooping yellow blossoms, flaming in the low-angled light of late afternoon that poured onto the greenhouse between the massive buildings of the downtown core, I silently praised the plant for its strange and tragic beauty.

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