The long thick spines of the cactus glowed hot orange as the body turned a charred black. I watched it burn but I wanted to pull it out of the fire, to rescue it.
It hurt to see it there.
That’s right, I thought, it hurts. Let it hurt, feel the pain, don’t run from it. Then let it go.
I’ve had the cactus for more than forty-five years.
It moved with me eight times, growing tall thick, and woody. A few years ago it flowered for the first and only time. Last summer it got a fungus. Over the winter I tried to scrape it off, spray it with neem oil and prune it.
Nothing worked. The fungus kept coming back.
I finally gave up, but couldn’t bear to throw the cactus in the garbage. I didn’t want to compost it thinking the fungus might spread. I decided to burn it at our Summer Solstice fire.
Because I have Bellydancing Class tonight we had our Solstice fire a day early. Last night as I watched my cactus burn and felt the pain of letting it go, I also felt that I was letting a part of my past go. I thought of the fourteen-year-old me riding my bicycle back from the flea market after buying the cactus small enough to fit in a plastic cup and felt grateful for the life I have now.
So I let the pain burn through me as I watched my cactus glow and darken then fall through the branches it was perched on and into the ashes below.
I still have a few pots with that cactus’ offspring. This summer I will prune and repot them all, continuing the ritual and giving them a chance to begin again too.