It's July in Nashville, and the weather is ghastly. No need to complain: when conditions are sufficient, that is, two long, hot, humid, mosquito/tick/chigger-infested months from now, it will cool off. Goal now is to meditate on something wondrous made possible by this misery.
Got it! The blooming of my Epiphyllum oxipetalum, AKA "queen of the night", a potted night-blooming succulent I schlepped from San Diego to LA to Nashville. Native to Central America, the "queen" is the world's ugliest plant most days. But for a few dreamy nights in late summer, conditions are sufficient for pink buds to emerge like a swan's neck literally on (epi) her waxy leaves (or phyllums) and then a week or so later open at twilight. By midnight the bloom morphs into a rosy-white globe fragrant with citrus, and then droops with exhaustion right before daylight, her one night of glory spent.
Today a young man came by to buy some furniture and saw the queen on my deck. He said his mother, who is Taiwanese and lives here, also has one, which was wondrous enough (queen fans abound in SoCal--San Diego even had an Epiphyllum Society--but we are rare birds here). This fellow knew his epiphylliana. He said its Chinese name, Tan Hua, means spicy blossom, but that because that bloom is so short-lived, Tan Hua is a Chinese idiom for what we call a "flash in the pan," as in, "Men Without Hats. Talk about a Tan Hua!"
That prompted me to look up the queens's name in Japanese. Wikipedia says it is "Gekka bijin", which means, "Beauty under the moon." Is there any more evocative thought? It immediately recalled a decade of summer nights spent "under the moon" (or under the flash of a digital camera) photographing this beauty on back decks and front porches of three cities.
Buddhists also say that you can see the universe in a flower, something no biologist would quarrel with. So I am grateful to the heat for allowing epiphyllum lovers one more opportunity to see the universe from our back decks. Conditions are almost sufficient.