The beloved cactus The dying section
We have just gone through some intense rainy weeks here in Huatulco, giving new meaning to tropical storms. Today the sun is out though, and we are starting to dry out, and the jungle surrounding us has never seemed so lush. Which brings me to a rather narrow topic on this blog...our cactus. In Mexico, there is an anomaly, cactus seem to grow in the heart of a tropical rain forest, and do just fine. We live in what is called a dry tropical forest, because we only get rain during the summer months, and nary a drop the rest of the year. In way, a lot like California, a green season, then a brown season. But hot. The cactus, in front of our house, is about 150 years old, and has thrived until this rainy season.
Our cactus is a landmark in the neighborhood. It stands right in front of our house, and is easily 16+ meters (around 40 ft) tall. It is a work of art, and the home to countless birds, lizards, and other critters throughout the year. This week, our whistling ducks pair had their second family of the season in our cactus. Twelve little fluffy, black and yellowish stripped chicks, that look nothing like their elegant, lovely parents, were unceremoniously dropped out of the nest by mama duck, a 10-15 ft drop. They land on their little bellies (like one of those egg drop experiments all schools seem to demand of their students) and waddled off behind the father. When mama gets them all out, they march off to the jungle, in a line that always reminds me of that "Make Way for Ducklings" story.
Showing off the babies
The last one out
Moving next door (to the jungle)
Hector, our iguana, lived in the cactus until recently, when I think his size began to inhibit the long climb up to a nice branch to sun on. He has since moved across the street to a bigger jungle. We do have a couple of smaller females living in the cactus right now, and we see them when the sun is out.
Hector on a sunny day
Our cactus had a lovely fruit season this year, bearing so many "pears" we were astounded at the number, as well as the variety of birds they attracted. Oaxaca, for bird watchers, is like the mother lode of bird counts/sightings. You could have done a week's bird watching from our patio, and exceeded your expectations. The cardinals and orioles came first. Loud, flashy colors, messy eaters. They were followed by the various woodpeckers and parrots one might see in a remote jungle setting. The wood ducks (whistling ducks) have been coming for a couple of years, always a pair, but this year was the first time we saw ducklings. In June, there were nine of them, and with these 12, the parents seemed much more together and organized than the first time out.... anyway....
As soon as the fruit filled the cactus, we noticed a sudden change on the right side of the cactus, it started to turn black. The wood peckers were eating more of their meals on this dark side, and as the rain started to really come on, the cactus started to peal away and drop its skin, and arms, what have you. Just the right side. We freaked. We had gone to great lengths to save this cactus, and had pointedly built our house around the cactus. Most people thought we were nuts, but it was so old, beautiful, and full of life, we couldn't cut it down. Now (we dread) we are loosing it, because we have never lived with a 150 year-old cactus before, we don't know what is happening, but surely not death.
We've been watching and studying the cactus for any signs of positive change, feeling very pessimistic. There was lots of evidence that this cactus has shed parts of itself in past years. Large scars, looking like redwood burls, are in various locations on the cactus. But today, we noticed little knobs coming out. Little green knobs. Do we dare to hope....of course we do. This cactus cannot die over a bad rainy season, it must have had dozens of other years of bad rains. We see hope in those little buds, that it will continue on, providing homes for the wildlife, food for them, and a place for the whistling ducks to return to every season to build their nest for the next crop of ducklings.