#17 The Century Plant
Each morning, following behind a pick-up loaded with rock doodlers, London and I hiked up the road to the quarry where I kept my canvas, paint and a water supply in a rock doodler’s empty old cabin.
As I worked I scraped bees and no-see-ems out of my paint and listened to wild stories told to me by a grizzled old reprobate.
Every time my four foot by eight foot, masonite canvas was caught up by the wind, it was sent soaring and wafting in flight down to the floor of the quarry. I would scramble from my ledge to rescue it before a second gust could lift it over the edge, float it into the canyon below and dash it into pieces. On days when the wind would not give me peace, I tested painting on flagstone. Although the flagstone did not blow away, the wind blew the paint from my brush.
At noon as I walked down the steep rocky road to my camp-site drinking in the beauty of the open land below and clear blue sky above, I stopped and checked on the progress of a Century Plant. It had finally received God’s consent to bloom.
To my delight, and to the delight of hummingbirds in the area, the ceremony took many weeks to complete. As the flowers grew, their colour changed from magenta to scarlet to orange to yellow.
When at last the flowers and the towering stock were dry and brown, with the dramatic flair of a Shakespearian actor, the Century Plant flung itself to the ground, uprooting its yucca-like base.
Men can live much longer lives than the Century Plant, but few men die with ritual as beautiful.