Godot Is Gone, But Godette Goes On

Godot, at the Height of His Glory

From the beginning, they were inseparable. Self-effacing, green, more-or-less prickly, they contented themselves with taking the afternoon sun in a far corner of the patio, telling tales of their travels to one another and gently ridiculing their over-achieving neighbor, a dwarf schefflera who prided herself on needing to be trimmed on a monthly basis.

Despite their own glacial growth rates and their refusal to claim attention by blooming, I grew fond of them. I gave them names: first Godot, then Godette. I talked to them, nurtured them, and fussed over them more than I was willing to admit. Eventually, I told their stories, both here, and here.

Godot was a Lace cactus, known in scientific circles as Echinocereus reichenbachii His ancestors, native to Texas and common throughout our Hill Country, have long-established roots in the state. Some of his kind were noted and recorded by the German scientist, Ferdinand Roemer, during his own travels through Texas between 1845 and 1847.

How Godot ended up on my patio is a simple enough story.

Godot came to live with me after the death of a human friend’s mother. When those who’d known her were offered a remembrance from her extensive collection of plants, I chose a slightly pathetic, short, scruffy little cactus no one could identify, and took it off to live on twenty-three acres of unimproved land in the Texas hill country…
Dangling from a hook between the cabin and the creek, my little cactus lived a quiet life, dependent on nature’s largess for its survival. It didn’t grow, but it didn’t die. It simply was.
After months of waiting for the cactus to do something – anything! – I named him Godot.  The name made me laugh. With a name, he seemed less prickly, more accessible.  People talked to him and gave him extra water. Sometimes, they carried him into the sunlight for an afternoon. Through it all, nothing changed

And then, everything changed. A year or two after trading the cabin for my urban patio, Godot astonished us all by producing a flower. The next year, he managed to provide two. The year after that, there were three. Finally, he did some over-achieving of his own and produced the wonderful cluster of blooms shown above. Through it all, he kept growing taller. Eventually, he became fourteen inches tall, nearly three times the height of an average Lace cactus.

Unfortunately, Godot had been changing more than I realized. One morning, I noticed him leaning slightly, as though his height was becoming a bit of a burden. I straightened him up and rearranged his dirt, adding a few Hill Country fossils around his base for extra support.

Over the next few days, the leaning became more pronounced. Braving his spines to poke and prod a bit, I discovered that my sturdy little friend seemed hollow.  Despite his healthy appearance, Godot clearly had begun to shrivel. After two more days, he began to sag, leaned even farther, broke in the middle, and toppled over. I found my darling Godot resting in pieces in his pot. Whether he was resting in peace, I couldn’t say.

Fearful that I’d somehow brought about his demise, I carried him to our local native plant specialists for an autopsy. The Cactus Examiner assured me there was no sign of rot from overwatering, no physical damage apart from the break that resulted in his toppling, and no indication of insect infestation.

He went on to remind me of something I knew, but hadn’t considered.  The life span of a Lace cactus in the wild rarely exceeds five years. Godot had lived among humans for at least seventeen years, and no doubt he’d spent a year or two before that on a Kerr County hillside. When he finally collapsed from a combination of desication and simple weariness, it was, as they say, his time. Godot had died of old age.

Unable to bear the thought of throwing him out in the trash, I carried his remains to a local nature center and tucked him into a sandy hummock, where he could bask in the afternoon sun.

Then, I went home to have a talk with Godette.

From the beginning, Godette had been the sickly one. She came to me with her star-shaped base a little spongy, her root system poorly established. While she had the potential to become a lovely example of Astrophytum myriostigma, the Bishop’s Hat cactus, what growth had taken place had left her column substantially narrowed at the top.

As she became better-established in a new pot with new dirt, enthusiastic growth left her looking  less like a misshapen starfruit and more like a heavily corseted Victorian woman. She was wasp-waisted, and it wasn’t long before she became seriously top-heavy, with a bottom segment four inches tall and an upper segment of nearly eight inches.

Unwilling to risk snapping off her top segment and repotting it, I braced her in a variety of ways, finally choosing a dowel rod and a length of cord to do the job. Through it all, she bloomed beautifully, and kept right on growing.

By the time I sat down with her to discuss the sad fate of Godot, she’d grown another few inches, and clearly needed sturdier support. Rummaging around in the supply closet, I found a piece of one-inch dowel, and prepared to make the switch. The minute I cut the cord connecting Godette to her support system and pulled the half-inch dowel from the pot, it was over. Whether grief-stricken over the loss of her friend or a simple victim of gravity, Godette broke herself in half, throwing her upper half onto the dirt. She appeared to be just as much a goner as Godot.

When I showed up for the second time in a week with a piece of cactus in hand, the Cactus Examiner was more hopeful in his prognosis. “Despite the damage, it’s healthy,” he said.  I couldn’t let it pass. “She’s healthy. It’s a she, and her name is Godette.” 

That made him smile, as he turned Godette this way and that. “Well, I think she’ll be just fine. Don’t replant her now. She’ll only rot. Put her in a cool, dry place, somewhere in the house where she won’t be in the way, then repot her in a month or two. She should take root and start growing again.”

When I asked what would happen to the portion remaining in the pot, he shrugged. “Let it be, and see what happens. If nothing happens by the time you repot this section, pull it out and check for roots. If there aren’t any, be glad you’ve still got this healthy piece.”

By February, the sun was catching a corner of the patio in early afternoon, and the temperatures were moderating. I decided it was time to repot Godette. The deed was done, and I began to wait. A month went by, then two. After three months, I wondered if the spirit of Godot had overtaken Godette. I hadn’t expected immediate results, but I certainly hadn’t expected to wait so long for a sign of progress.

Then, four months after her repotting, I noticed that buds which had lain dormant since Godette’s misfortune were beginning to swell. As the days passed, some shriveled and fell off, but others continued to mature. Eventually, and to my great joy, a flower appeared.

Godette always had been a prolific bloomer, and I wondered if the trauma she’d suffered would change that. A first hint of an answer came a week later, when two flowers opened.

By the time that pair faded and dropped off, more buds were beginning to open.

By the time June arrived, Godette was setting clusters of buds. Compared to her previous life, when everything she produced was neat and symmetrical, these seemed to be random, erratic and out-of-sync. It was as though she’d been storing energy, and wasn’t able to wait for one flowering to complete before starting another set of buds.

At one point, there were more than two dozen buds and opening flowers crowded together at her top. It was as though she was filled with color and fragrance, and couldn’t wait to begin putting it out into the world.

At last, the familiar rings of flowers began to appear, followed by what I’d come to expect of Godette: masses of blossoms as lovely as any in the cactus world.

Today, Godette seems to have fully recovered. She shares her corner of the patio with new friends: four pots filled with the progeny of a spineless prickly pear (Opuntia cacanapa “Ellisiana”) that lived near the same cabin where Godot hung for so many years.  As luck would have it, prickly pear takes rather well to having pads snapped off and replanted, so Godette is assured of a steady supply of Hill Country companions in the years to come.

While we’ll never have another Godot, leaving the Opuntia nameless seemed a little cold, a bit impersonal. “Well,” I said to Godette, “you’re the clever one. Why don’t you come up with some names for them?” “I just might,” she said. And that was that, at least for a while.

Some weeks later, I was giving the schefflera her monthly trim when Godette finally spoke up. “Bubba,” she said. “That’s the big prickly pear’s name. Bubba. He’s a Texas country boy, so why not?”  “Well,”  I said, “that’s fine. But what about the rest of them? They need names, too.”

She’d already figured it out. “They’re a family, so they all get Texas names. There’s Bubba, Bubette, Bubbelina and Bubba Joe. How about that?”

When I stopped laughing, I said, “That’ll do. But what happens when the next generation comes along?” Godette didn’t even quiver. “That’s your problem,” she said. “I’m just going to sit here and bloom.”

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment, please click below.  Also, each of the images can be clicked for a larger view and more detail.


84 thoughts on “Godot Is Gone, But Godette Goes On

  1. What a hilarious piece of literary creation! Hilarious with a subtle human element. To me this piece speaks of human life, the growth, the fruitful days, the slow decay, and death. Yes, it speaks of the cycle of life, plant and human.

    May Godot RIP and may Godette’s adulthood stage be a healthy and comfortable one. And may the little Bubbulas grow to be great minds of their time, and may they find the answers for achieving peace in the world, and cures for horrible diseases. And who knows, they may find the answer to eternal youth!

    1. I’ve been waiting a while to write this one, Maria. After Godot went kerplop! into the dirt, and Godette went into artificial dormancy, I thought I should finish out the cycle with a “where are they now” post. But it just was too gloomy. So, I decided to wait and see what happened with Godette. I’m surely glad I did.

      The way things are going, it’s entirely possible that the cacti on my patio may find a path toward peace before any of our assorted leaders figure out what they’re supposed to be looking for. Disease and eternal youth probably are a little beyond them, but they certainly have given new flair to that trite old saying, “Bloom where you are planted.”


  2. I loved Godot and I’m sorry to have missed his demise, but Godette is a true female. She showed the courage and determination to overcome all obstacles and give you the most incredible blossoms ever seen. A wonderful story as usual Linda. As for the names Godette chose for her companions, I don’t know. Bubba is the name my oldest grandson gave to Dr. Advice, and now they all call him Bub. I won’t tell him he is a Texas hill country cactus.

    1. To be honest, Kayti, I’d never thought about cactus having a natural life span, probably because I’ve never been around one long enough to witness it. The changes we see in flowers, grasses, and trees take place as part of a much shorter cycle, and they’re more obvious. Right until the end, there wasn’t a single indication there was anything wrong with Godot.

      As for Godette, what amazed me most while she was lying around the house was that she never changed, either. I thought she’d shrivel up, or lose weight, or something. Not a bit. She didn’t change at all. Even the buds that she had when she toppled stayed intact. I did talk to her now and then, assuring her that there was a new pot in her future. Maybe that helped.

      “Bubba” and “Bubette” came to me just yesterday morning, while I was coming home from the farmers’ market. I figured anything that made me laugh while negotiating Saturday morning traffic was good enough to use, especially since the names were such great echoes of Godot and Godette. I think it’s great that they share a nickname with Dr. Advice. Now I’ll think of him every time I see the cactus.


  3. Of course you led me along like the pied piper of words! Godette’s explosion of blooms is breathtaking, and your names for the new variety of cactus is absolutely perfect.

    I’m typing in a tiny sliver of a comment field, so perdon if there are typos… here’s hoping it sails out of the comment gate and lands smack in the beauty of Godette and her suitors.


    1. I’ve been thinking about you the past couple of days, ever since I bumped into the photo of your colander in my files! I was hoping you were getting at least some kind of connection — then I saw your new post pop up, and here you are.

      An “explosion of blooms” is exactly right. It reminds me of how often I used to hear the phrase, “late bloomer.” I haven’t heard that in quite some time. Do people not use it any more? In any event, Godette’s a perfect example of othe phenomenon, even though she was more interrupted than late. At least now she can grow and thrive without having to worry about the cactus equivalent of “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”


  4. Over the years I’ve enjoyed the Cactus Saga, and this latest installment is wonderful. The photos are beautiful, and your nurturing of these plants is heart warming.

    I think we personify plants, pets, possessions, etc., as a way of learning about our world and ourselves. You certainly experienced myriad thoughts, emotions, learning, and growth just through observing and caring for Godot and his successors.

    1. Mom always used to tease me unmercifully about talking to plants, until she gave me her African violet collection. I told her I was going to talk them into blooming, and I did. She always contended the difference was that I had better light for them and remembered to water, and there’s no question that helped. Still, I think she was worried that all that talking might have had an effect.

      I do tend to anthropomorphize. If you liked Godot and Godette, you’re going to love the caterpillar I call the Big Green Guy, and what he taught me about writing.

      I’m glad you like the photos. I swore to myself I wasn’t going to think about a real replacement camera for the Canon that went kaput during last fall’s vacation until I’d learned how to use the $130 replacement I bought. I think my favorite among these is the third one of Godette, that shows the filaments around the buds. At least when you’re taking a photo of a cactus, you don’t have to keep saying, “Now, hold still!”


  5. I remember Godot very well—–A GREAT Beauty! I’m so sorry about his demise, but having nothing but Cactus in my Garden, I have come to understand they have a life-span, too…Just like people and trees and all sorts of living things…..May he RIP!
    Now, Godette…..My my my…..What a GREAT Beauty she is—-and all those flowers—-It is very exciting and she is a treasure!
    You know you can take an Opuntia pad and lay it on the ground and it will root, and grow……You have quite a lovely family here…..!

    1. I remember seeing photos of those wonderful cactus you have. They’re such truly interesting plants, and their capacity to adapt to harsh conditions is a bit of a lesson in itself. The good news is that the wheel turns. Autumn’s melancholy gives way to the freshness of spring, and despite Godot’s end, Godette goes on. It’s really quite wonderful to witness.

      I learned about Opuntia pads quite by accident. One got knocked off Bubba by an over-enthusiastic blue jay that tried to land on it. It fell down into the pot, and I kept thinking, “I need to do something with that.” After days turned into weeks, I happened to look down and see the roots that were attaching the pad to the dirt, I gave a tug, and discovered the pad wasn’t waiting around for some lazy human to help it out!

      The lazy human did pull it out and give it another pot, though. It’s done very well, and today it’s become Bubbelina.


      1. LOL….I love it! I meant to say something about those GORGEOUS Flowers of Godot’s. Cactus Flowers are or can be like no other flower from any other plant. The Variation of colors is just stunning! I’m happy you have pictures from his blooming days—-those are treasures, too!

  6. Long live the ghost of Godot and may all the pricklies in his wake turn their faces to the sun and murmur, “Oh cactus, my cactus, rise up and hear the bells, for you bouquets and ribboned wreaths!”

    1. Oh, Monica! What a wonderful re-working of a line from a poem I haven’t read in some time. It started me thinking about eulogies, epitaphs and such. No tombstone for Godot, but wouldn’t this be perfect? “Godot: He Finally Arrived”


    1. They are gorgeous, montucky. The only thing I haven’t seen yet is a bloom from the prickly pear, but that may yet happen. The parent plant was a prolific bloomer, so it may just be that these plants will need a little more time, as did Godot and Godette.

      As for a sense of humor — life’s too serious not to have one. I’m glad my bunch on the patio seem to have learned that lesson.


    1. Godette’s not only gorgeous, she’s learned an important life lesson — while gallivanting’s wonderful, it’s not absolutely necessary, in order to have a story to tell. Sometimes, just staying put and watching the world go by is enough. That does remind me of another pair of old words I rarely hear any more: gad-about, and gadfly. And, “Ye gads!”, an expression I always assumed was a more polite substitute for “Ye gods!” Now I’m wondering what a “gad” might be. That goes on my to-be-explored-later list.

      You’re right about the importance of conviviality. Just being in a crowd isn’t the same thing. Maybe that’s why our blogs appeal to me more than Facebook and Twitter. They feel more convivial.

      I’m off for a day of gallivanting, myself. I’m taking a friend for lunch, at a 1906 hotel tucked into the middle of our coastal prairie. It’s a family style restaurant, and has been its whole life. You sit at long tables with whoever shows up, and ask nicely, “Would you pass those potatoes, please?” Very convivial!


      1. I love a gad-about as much as a gallivant, though as you and Godette rightly know, it’s not necessary to do either all of the time. Have a wonderful day of conviviality.

  7. You remind me of my sister with her generations of beagles: Bagle, Biali, Serena and two more. And you remind me of a very good friend with her generations of standard poodles: Coco, Cognac, Brie, Pepper and another. Your cacti take on the playfulness, endurance and life of their canines.

    This is such a heartwarming tale of two cacti. I’m glad Godette has more family to kibitz and cavort with. I was touched and a bit sad when you told me about Godot’s demise. I couldn’t help but think, “Now what?” Thank you for continuing the story.

    1. Welcome back, Georgette! I see you have a new post up. I’m anxious to read, and see what’s been happening in your world. I suppose it’s not possible that you’re all settled in, but I suspect a good bit of progress has been made.

      Your mention of the canine generations made me think about the one great convenience of both cactus and cats — they don’t have to be taken for walks. Of course, they’re not as truly companionable as dogs, either, so there’s that.

      But each has its place, and I’m glad to finally have completed the circle with Godot. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t say any more than I did publicly after his collapse. A little time had to pass before I found a way to write about it rather than simply state the fact. Besides, I was a little sad, too. Now? Not so much. A new chapter begins!


  8. Your third picture strikes me as a cactus embodying the star of David. After that immediate impression I noticed that the genus name has astro in it, so some botanist must have seen this the same way.

    One of the headings on the page you linked to is “Cultural Practices,” but what follows isn’t what I normally imagine the word cultural applying to. Context makes a difference.

    1. The star shape caught my attention as well, Steve. Once the cactus begins to grow, it’s not so apparent, and the similarity to a Bishop’s hat begins to emerge. By the time mine reached a good height, it looked more like a garden-variety, ribbed columnar cactus.

      I found another site that describes all five species and one subspecies in the genus. Apparently it’s maintained by a German fellow traveling Mexico to collect cactus – a modern day Roemer of sorts.

      The information seems good and the writing is delightful. He describes the genus as “A preciousness from the New World.”

      This paragraph about another of the species uses “culture” again, in that different context you mention.

      “If an anectode is true, we owe the discovery of the also spineless Astrophytum asterias (asterias = sea urchin) to the desert wind!

      The German royal Karwinsky had to run after his rolling hat on a journey in Tamaulipas. His sombrero just found cought in the skinny brushwood where just the most beautiful species of the genus grew.

      The few specimen which reached Europe in 1843 soon disappeared because the culture of the plant isn’t simple.

      The Asterias has been found again by Mr. Fric at the properties of the Mexican landowner Gonzalez 51 years later. The plant is still a rarity today in cultivation. And in its native country it is nearly extincted. One has established another occurrences at the Rio Grande near the Mexican / Texas border at the beginning of the 20th century. However the also very rare Texan Asterias was nearly wiped out soon by unprincipled dealers.”

      All that made me think of the Texas wild rice in the San Marcos. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.


  9. I am SO, so glad that the story of Godette and Godot has made a reappearance, especially with such a happy ending. I love how you have tended to their needs so very carefully, with such love and concern. Your “expert” seems to get it, too. The flowers are simply dazzling in every single way imaginable.

    As always, Linda, your words move me with joy! You weave such a magical story but one of real heart and love. Yes, love, for we love our living things; they are our companions and friends. And yes, we hear them speak to us in that sweet, silent language.

    I hope the story of Godette and the Bubbas continue for many years to come. It would be sad not to have the saga continue. I’m grateful it had another chapter!

    1. The best thing about Godot and Godette, Jeanie, is that they were — and are — living souvenirs of my beloved hill country.

      One important lesson I learned through all this is that cacti are more resilient than I realized. The next time a hurricane requires evacuation, I won’t have to leave them behind as I did for Rita and Ike. I can either uproot them, or take cuttings, and away we’ll go.

      After the experience with Godette, I grew brave, and took some cuttings off my huge “Cereus peruvianus monstrosus.” It was a monster, all right. It had become so heavy in its pot the only way I could move it was to sit down and push it with my feet. So — snicker snack! Off came the cuttings. I let them suberize, then repotted them, and I noticed this week that they’re beginning to grow, too. If the time comes, there are some new branches that will trim easily — though I’ll do it very, very carefully.

      Your comment about magic reminded me of a favorite Buffett song. In the midst of what’s happening in the world, it might seem as frivolous as a post about a pair of cacti, but it really isn’t. I’m glad you reminded me of it, and I suspect you’ll remember it, too.


      1. I do remember it! This song got me through many a rugged day at work during those last months.

        I’m glad you can do the cuttings and so far, so good! You will always have them… how perfect!

  10. Another piece to enjoy and love! “My favorite lines: I found my darling Godot resting in pieces in his pot. Whether he was resting in peace, I couldn’t say.”

    Godette has the most amazing flowers. Who knew cacti could bloom so prolifically and with such beauty? Not I, for certain. Been thinking of you pretty often here lately–not sure why. Hope all is well and that you are enduring the heat. The oven temperatures have arrived, me thinks. BW

    1. You and I share the same sense of humor, BW. I rather enjoyed those lines, myself.

      Godette really does seem to be an over-achiever. Nearly every article I read about her species and every photo I see shows 1-5 blooms. She certainly does better than that, on a regular basis. I’ll be interested to see how things go the rest of the summer. Last year, she kept blooming until nearly the end of September.

      All’s well here, but you can bet I’m working at about three-quarter speed. The last couple of weeks haven’t been unusually hot for this time of year, but those cool stretches we had make it seem worse than it is. One of the guys on the dock actually came up with a little rhyme: “Varnish early, varnish late, then go home and vegetate.” I told him I thought we ought to make him Poet Laureate of The Finger Pier. He just laughed and laughed — he was proud of himself, for sure.

      Speaking of oven temperatures, here’s a great story for you. I ran into some peach cobbler today that was as good as any I’ve had. I asked if the recipe was available. One of the women running the place said, “Well, we make it by the bucketloads and you wouldn’t want those quantities. But I can tell you how I adapted it for myself.”

      Of course I said yes. She reeled off the recipe, and I thought, “That sounds familiar.” Sure enough — it’s your dewberry cobbler recipe. I checked as soon as I got home. There were some minor variations. You use less butter, for one thing. But it’s close enough that I think it will finally give me that lost family recipe I’ve been looking for.

      Keep cool!


      1. Oh what wonderfu news about the cobbler recipe! Again, this world wide web is just amazing for useful tidbits and finding lost recipes! I’m duly impressed that you recognized the cobbler recipe which tells me you may have used it more than once yourself!!!! Thanks for letting me know that! I just love these serendipitous moments! Don’t vegetate too much! BW

  11. What a delightful tale.

    I was sorry to hear about Godot, when he bought the farm. He’d been with you for such a long time.

    It was distressing to hear that Godette almost joined him but she seems to have settled in well. Those blooms are just stunning. Godette has outdone herself.

    I’ve repotted a pad or two from my prickly pear. Hubby gets overly enthusiastic sweeping the front stoop and has knocked them off. They do reroot easily. The original pad now has 5 remaining. I have moved it to what I hope is a safer spot!

    Two of my three little Texas barrel (?) cacti didn’t make it through the extreme cold of this past winter but the third is doing fine.

    No blooms yet. I remain hopeful that one day, they’ll suprise me.

    1. Gué, after I started doing more reading for this post, I learned that the best way to care for a Bishop’s cap cactus is to keep it cool and dry over the winter. That’s exactly when Godette spent her time hanging out on a shelf in the house. The timing couldn’t have been better.

      When I repotted her, I made sure to put about 4″-5″ inches of her column into the dirt. By the time the roots get established, she should be pretty secure.

      Did I tell you how many new pads I got on the prickly pear this spring? There were over twenty, I know. Twenty-four, twenty-eight. Something like that. It really was remarkable. A few didn’t develop, and I decided the plant made that choice. But Bubba’s easily 4′ tall now. If he was in the ground, he’d really be spreading. I think I may break off some substantial branches next spring and start those in different pots — or find someone who’d like a nice, healthy cactus for their yard.

      One other thing I’ve learned is that it takes time for some of these things to bloom. When I had my plumeria, it always took at least two years for them to start producing flowers. Whether it’s true, I don’t know, but someone said a certain chemical had to build up in the plant before it could bloom. Maybe it’s the same with cacti.

      In any event, they’ve certainly been fun!


  12. Another fascinating tale, well told, Linda!

    As one who truly delights in nature and the miracles she produces, I’m not a bit surprised that cacti have finite lifespans. But oh, what beauty they offer us at the peak of maturity — not unlike the human and animal kingdoms, perhaps?

    I haven’t tried my hand at growing cacti in many years. I’m probably too much of a “hoverer,” worrying over whether (and when) they’ll bloom, whether they need water or fertilizer, whether they should be moved to a sunnier window. It’s not scientific, of course, but I believe they do much better when left to their own devices!

    Godette seems to have a saucy personality — Bubba is an ideal name for a Texas country boy. And she just couldn’t resist pointing out that YOU get to name the next generation, ha!

    1. My unscientific opinion, Debbie, is that you’re right. Cacti generally do better with less attention, rather than more. Over-watering, over-fertilization, and too much moving around all seem to harm them more than help.

      As a matter of fact, I was amazed to learn that, if you bring home a cactus from the wild, or transplant one, you should orient it to the sun exactly as it was in its previous location. It seems cacti develop protection against the sun as they grow, so transplanting them with the same orientation will reduce the chance of sun damage.

      I’ve never fertilized mine, either, but I use a really good organic potting mix for them, that has a higher percentage of sand than many soils. That’s probably why they do so well. They mix it locally, out at the same place I took Godot and Godette.

      “Saucy” is a good word for Godette. I hope we have some good years ahead of us, before I have to start coming up with names again.


    1. Oh, heavens, Ladybugg. If I couldn’t even consider giving Godot the boot, how would I ever have buried him in a boot? No, he’s just fine. It would have been better to take him back to the hill country, but I suppose we can’t always have perfection.


        1. Yes, I know. But Godot’s name isn’t so much a literary reference as a humorous expression of our relationship, which involved so….much….waiting…. and….waiting….and…!

          1. I get it. Fun, lots of fun in this post. You will forgive me for my literary intrusion…just part of the way I am wired. Anyway, I’ve been looking at my Begonias on the patio, who have been with me for years. Your personification of Godot and Godette made me look at these plants in a new way.

            1. What I do find interesting is how Beckett’s play has edged into people’s consciousness. A friend of Mom’s who used to take her to their knitting group would moan about Mom taking “forever” to get ready. She used to say, “Waiting for your mom’s like waiting for Godot.” If the cactus hadn’t already been named by that point, I’d be wondering if mom’s friend was responsible for his name. I may give her a call and ask if she’s a Beckett fan, or if she just picked up the saying somewhere.

  13. I too have fallen in love with some of the plant life that surrounds me on the farm. I’ve regularly named the animals, but hadn’t thought about naming anyone else. The trees in my apple orchard are all feminine, I talk to them, mostly in the fall when I’m picking their fruit, telling them thank you, etc. etc. Godot did live a good life, and I’m sure somewhere in his prickly little cactus heart, he had a soft spot for you. ;-) DM

    1. I don’t regularly name plants, DM. With Godot, it just happened, and once it had, he seemed to take on a new sort of life. When Jim Croce sings about having a name, he could be singing Godot’s song.

      You made me smile with your reference to Godot’s “prickly little cactus heart.” The first thing that came to mind was the expression, “Bless your pea-pickin’ heart.” Of course that led straight back to Tennessee Ernie Ford — entirely appropriate, since Godot was a country boy.


  14. Very entertaining cactus tale, Linda. I’ve always been a little envious of you folks who actually live in cactus country. At one time I had the run of a good size greenhouse near here and had a very large collection of cacti including a few Bishop’s Caps as well as a few buttons that Don Juan would have enjoyed. I now have just a handful…believe me, that is a figure of speech. :-)

    Your description of Godot’s downfall sounds very much the same as several of my cacti’s demise.

    1. Shoot. Here I had Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters parked at your front door, ready to do some business. It would have to be a new generation of Pranksters, of course, Ken being buried as firmly as Godot several years ago.

      I used to think cacti were boring. I’m sure that was due partly to knowing them only as garish displays in places like Home Depot garden centers, where they’ll actually display them with straw flowers as “blooms.” As with so many things, the real deal has turned out to be much more interesting.

      Despite the “look but don’t touch” attitude of cacti, one thing I learned from this whole experience is that you can learn a lot about cactus from touch. I read an article about the the way their pads and ribs swell or contract to deal with variations in moisture levels, and that with something like a prickly pear, the feel of the pads can be as good an indication of when watering is necessary as anything else. It makes sense, but I’d never thought about it.


      1. On the subject of touch, Steve Schwartzman has heard this before, I met a blind man once who loved cacti. Durimg the time I had that large greenhouse full of cacti, he came over to “see” them. I was amazed at his sensitive touch when he passed his hands over all the different plants without collecting a single spine. The opuntias are especially good at imbedding those tiny spines into our skin, but he got not a single one. No scratches from the barrels and he recognized most as he went along. Truly remarkable what we can do with the proper sensitivities and control. Unfortunately, for me anyway, his sense of taste was not so well tuned when I went to his home for dinner.
        I’ve seen those stupid fake flowers on cacti. Eeecchh.
        Back in the day, I would have jumped on the Pranksters’ wagon without a thought of hesitation. Now I wouldn’t be able to wait to get off.

        1. That’s an amazing story about the blind fellow. It’s wonderful how other senses compensate when one is lost, and I’ve heard some great stories about the process, but this is one of the best yet.

          No matter how careful I am, even the glochids seem capable of embedding themselves from a distance of six inches. One thing I have found is that the remedy for accidental fiberglass contact works for many cactus spines: rubbing the skin with an old nylon stocking. Nylons are so versatile. They make great varnish strainers in an emergency, and adequate replacement belts for diesel engines in a real emergency.

          I always thought it was terrific that they painted Kesey’s coffin with the same swirled paint job that decorated the bus. As for blacklisting — not a chance. But now and then a little editorial discretion seems appropriate. :)


  15. What a delightful Sunday evening bit of reading! And the pictures were as lovely. The little flower fell off of my African Violet. I learned yesterday, while researching Wild Violets (which are growing gangbusters in our yard) that African Violets are not actually violets. All the same, I miss her bloom, and am trying not to touch the leaves when watering etc. Maybe I need to chat with her, or give her a name, or perhaps – more importantly – give her my ear for a time!

    1. Despair not! I have several plants that will drop leaves, flowers or buds if I decide to change things up. Ever the optimist, I suspect your violet’s just reacting to a new environment, and will be just fine.
      And don’t worry about touching the leaves. They’re hardier than that. They just prefer their leaves not to sit in water. If I get water on the leaves, I just flick it off. Remember — they do grow in the wild, and get rained on. It’s the drainage that’s important.

      I suspect if you listened to her, what you’d find before anything else is immense gratitude. After all, you got her out of wherever she was and gave her a home. What could be better?


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Becca — story and pictures both. I like your description of Godette as a “princess.” I suspect she does have tendencies in that direction!


  16. Your delicacy in returning Godot from whence he came, speaks volumes about your beautiful heart Linda. RIP Godot.
    Godette, of course, is simply marvellous!

    Did I ever mention, that as a child, not yet into double figures, my collection of cacti and succulents numbered close to 100 ? Long before I reached my second decade I’d flown the nest and left behind that collection, but over the years, I’ve retained a love of those prickly characters and again have a small (and growing) family of them. Mr. Merriweather has a perchant for nibbling the succulents and we’re still negotiating a solution to that issue. ……

    1. Oh, eremophila, I’m such a softie. When I pinch back my Christmas cactus, or do heavy pruning on things like the schefflera, I can’t just throw the trimmings away. I usually pot them up, get them established, and then put them out of the “giveaway table” down by our dumpster.

      It’s really quite amazing what shows up down there — everything from old toys to wicker chairs to flower pots and hanging baskets. I found a beat-up basket there once that had a dove egg in it. I brought that home, and it’s still here in my little basket of nature souvenirs. The starts I leave down there never last more than a day. I swear people make a point of going by to see what’s around.

      I didn’t know you were a fan of cacti. I’ve learned enough about them now that they’ve become even more interesting to me. Given the hot and dry conditions on my WNW-facing patio, it’s a perfect location for cactus. i might try another fancy one once we get past hurricane season.


  17. What a delightful story, Linda. I enjoyed every bit of it. How sad when Godot had to go. But I felt excited when I saw Godette having flowers… May she continue to flourish… :)

    1. Well, Jojang, at least Godot had a nice, full life. He not only lived longer than would have been expected, he provided some entertainment and pleasure for people with his story. Not everyone gets to do that.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. I wondered about cacti in the Philippines, and found this page with some beautiful photos. Not only that, if you scroll to the bottom, there’s a photo of a cactus just like Godette!


      1. You’re right, Linda, Godot lived a full life. He fulfilled his purpose even just for the joy that he has brought you (and us who got to read about his life).

        The photos on the Cacti in the Philippines was just wonderful. How nice to see Godette’s relatives… Although, Godette’s flowers were more abundant (and beautiful) though :)


  18. What a delight to see Godette not only thrive but reproduce as well. I didn’t know the lifespan of Godot. He had wonderful companionship until his dying day.

    The advice you were given to care for these plants reminds me how little I understand the genus. My only plant intuition seems to be for woody shrubs like roses.

    1. I wouldn’t worry about not understanding cacti if I were you, nikkipolani. You just tend to that magical garden of yours and we’ll all stand around and gasp in amazement at what you manage to coax forth.

      I suppose what made Godot and Godette so magical is that they sat around for so long I never expected them to bloom. And, I certainly didn’t expect what I got when they did. Now, I need to see if I can coax another bloom or two out of my Cereus peruvianus monstrous. Right now, he just looks like a pile of modeling clay. Maybe I should fertilize him.


  19. Linda,
    I’m so relieved that this tale ended on a happy note. The king is dead, long live the queen. I’ll remember Godet fondly. He lived a long and flowering life. I love the new names. There’s nothing like a family of Bubbas.

    Did you read that business about the wasp-wasted corset-wearers? And I thought women who wore spiked high heels were slaves to fashion. A few hammer toes, bunions and neuromas are a walk in the park compared to cracked and deformed ribs and respiratory problems. Can you imagine wearing something that would cause deformed and dislocated internal organs? I guess it’s akin to women taking weight-loss products that cause all manner of unpleasant symptoms. There’s no end to what some people will do to conform to the current standard of beauty for their time.

    I went off on a tangent there, but I am sorry to hear of Godet’s demise. He was a fine specimen and a hearty soul.

    1. You know, Bella, if you hadn’t ‘fessed up, I might have figured it out. I’d already fixed a location, and there are some phrases and a cadence here and there that suggested your writing. Well, and that interest in the corsets. You do like the odd detail.

      I did read all of that, and was horrified. A girdle’s one thing, but those corsets were akin to foot-binding. I can’t imagine wearing those things — although I do remember dancing in three inch heels, so I can’t go entirely sensible and practical.

      It was a bit of an odd trail to go down, but I was trying to figure out how to describe that pinched-in-the-middle look, and that seemed best. I started with the wasps, actually. A wasp-waist looks better on them.

      Godette might pop up again, or not. Even stories have natural endings. Actually, it’s often quite satisfying to read, “The End,” and close the book. Then, it’s time to pick up a new one.


    1. It was really rather amazing, Judy. The day he put out those three blooms was a rainy day. I wasn’t sure I could get a good photo, but I had no choice, because his blooms lasted only a day. If you didn’t click to enlarge the pic, be sure to do it. It’s even better then.

      I can print this one, if I get the urge. I’d smartened up enough by then to keep the large file.


      1. It would be interesting to see that luminous sheen in print. Probably would be very interesting on metallic paper too. Good you have a nice file size of it.

  20. Linda, this post is my favorite of all your writings. Maybe because it is about plants which I really love- after of course cats, dogs and, anything equine.

    Your story is quite funny and I laughed and felt sad all at the same time. Humanizing the catcti really made this a lovely read. I’d love to read more written in this manner. Someday you must write about Dixie Rose. Bless her “cotton-picking little heart.”


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Yvonne. I understand that combination of laughter and sadness perfectly well. It’s common at wakes — which in a way this is, I suppose. ;)

      Just this weekend a friend asked, “Are you going to post the cat carols again this Christmas?” My gosh — it’s only July! But I might.

      Dixie is in the queue for an appearance, though, teamed up with Mark Twain and others. I think you’ll like that one, too. All I have to do is write the danged thing!

      Speaking of cotton-picking, I was in cotton country on Sunday, and you should have seen it. The crop looks wonderful. I hope they get a good harvest this year.


  21. What a gentle, quirky, tale this is, Linda! Sadly, I seem to have the opposite of green fingers. However, ever since a temperamental Bonsai tree dropped half its leaves overnight when I gave it a scolding for being such a drama queen (it used mild leaf dropping as a means of chastising me for not watering it enough) I have been very respectful and friendly to plants given to me. They appreciate it by flowering. I never used to believe that interacting with plants made a blind bit of difference, but the Bonsai surely changed my mind….I loved your tale of Godot and Godette. I’m sure Beckett would have liked it too, in an ironic sort of way…

    1. Anne, some time ago Meera Lee Sethi posted about plants in pain on her blog. She’s both a scientist and a great writer, and it’s the science of plant communication that most intrigued me. The piece isn’t too long, or overly technical. I think you’d enjoy it. You may be more careful with your plants after reading it. I certainly was.

      Now, here’s a question for you that never has occurred to me, but it relates to your field. Are plants and animals affected by such things as Mercury being in retrograde, Jupiter and Leo doing whatever they’re up to, and such? There’s a question for your blog!


      1. There indeed is a question! The short answer is, Yes, especially re the Moon. Not sure about the impact of the other planets, but I will research a piece on biodynamic gardening – one of my former students is a specialist in astrological gardening, so I may be lazy (given the backlog of writing on which I am already working) and ask her for a Guest piece…Thanks for the idea!

  22. Oh, I remember Godot so well from you stories! RIP, Godot. As for Godette, marvelous, marvelous. And a special bravo for the Cactus Examiner and his quick adjustment to understand that Godette was a “she,” not an “it.” Such a lovely story this is!

    1. You really would enjoy our local nursery, which combines all the virtues of a garden shop, a garage sale, an anthropological dig and a street market in Accra. If you need a pot of geraniums, you can get them. But, if you’re in the mood for a four foot split amethyst, a fertility god from West Africa, a cheesy wind-chime for your great aunt who loves cheesy stuff, or twelve queen palms for your winding drive — they can take care of you. I really should go out there on a slow day with my camera and do a post.

      All of which is to say the people who work there tend to be both knowledgeable and slightly quirky themselves, and quite good at picking up on things like the fact that a cactus has a personality that’s been imagined into existence. That’s pretty lovely, too!


  23. This, in my mind, is one of the best pieces you have written. It is descriptive, insightful, knowledgeable, has humour and pathos, and overall is a delight to read! I found I had a big smile on my face when I got to the end!

    Bravo,Linda, and Godette!

    1. That’s why I had to dally a bit to write it, Sandi. I wanted people to have smiles at the end, despite the unfortunate demise of Godot. It took a while for events to work themselves out — a practical consideration that demanded waiting, so that I could get photos of the various stages. I almost put it together after Godette’s first bloom, but then I wondered what else she might do. It was worth waiting for.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It certainly has been a bit of a saga!


  24. Hee! Love it…. You know, when you sat down to discuss the sad fate of Godot with his lovely companion, she was listening — acutely! And I do believe his spirit is never far, helping her bloom so beautifully. I read a fascinating piece about how, when plants and trees know they’re dying, they release all their nutrients to the surrounding, healthier organisms via the root systems. I guarantee you that’s what Godot was doing, for his girl. :)

    1. FeyGirl, I’d love to think so. The only problem with your theory for G & G is that they were separately potted, making root communication a little tough. On the other hand, it is true that, when I pulled the bottom half of Godot from the pot and used the dirt for some prickly pear transplants, they really took off. Usually, they only put new pads on in early spring, but they’re adorned with new green now.

      Take a look at this link I left for Anne Whitaker, a couple of comments above. It’s about plants in pain, and the science of what’s been discovered is amazing. There is, indeed, more in our world than we can imagine!


  25. I don’t know what effect music or human speech has on vegetation. It just seems obvious that someone who would take the time to converse with a cactus, or any plant, is going to be interacting in other loving ways, as well: feeding, nurturing, protecting against stifling heat or a cold chill. As you’ve demonstrated with Godot and Godette, the result is often not just attractive flowers, but a beautiful relationship, too.

    1. It holds true in other realms, Charles. I had a guest once who was amazed to find me chatting with my cat while I I did a few kitchen chores. She asked if I always talked to Dixie Rose, and when I said yes, of course, she admitted she never had talked to her dog. Not once, beyond the occasional and necessary commands.

      I suggested she give it a try, and a couple of months later, she called to tell me what a difference it seemed to make in her dog’s behavior. It was both better behaved, and more responsive. I wasn’t surprised.

      Now, if we only could find some ways to encourage real conversation among humans.


    1. Oh, thank you, Andrew! The irony of a cactus blooming on a rainy day is so wonderful, and it certainly did allow for a nice photo.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the story.


  26. Wait no more for Godot. Godot is godone.

    Godette has certainly gone on a blooming spree. As for the spineless Bubbas, I don’t think I’ll go there, thanks.

    1. Godone, indeed — and very clever on your part, WOL. Godette’s resting just now, but I expect more from her before the season’s over. There are tiny little buds beginning to form again.

      I’m really quite fond of the Bubbas, myself. For one thing, they thrive on my hot, sunny balcony. And now that I’ve learned how to propagate them so easily, I can have my own little bit of West Texas right outside my door. They haven’t bloomed yet, but I’m hopeful that remembering to fertilize the big one next year may help bring it along. I’ve heard they have the same big, yellow blooms as the spiny prickly pear.


  27. What fun you are to read, Linda! I remember when you introduced Godot. I certainly never knew that a cactus of any kind had a wear-date! What a shock that yours did, and that it nearly tripled its life expectancy.

    1. I know, Lynda. In my family, we’ve murdered and neglected to death so many plants it never occurred to me that one might die of old age. They never had a chance! But Godot did, and he had a fine life.Clearly, a little benign neglect can be a good thing.


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