It was 11 o’clock at night.
I raced down the street with my camera gear after being tipped off by a neighbor about some once-in-a-lifetime shots unfolding right then, practically in my own backyard.
I crouched down in the dark, twisting my body for the best angles as my neighbor, a fellow photographer, held a tiny LED flashlight so I could see to focus. “Oh wow!” “Look at that!” “I’ve never seen anything like it before!” “What is that!?” “Look over there!”
We leaned in, wedged uncomfortably on her back patio between pots of exotic plants and snapped away for an hour as the drama unfolded before us.
I wore a long-sleeved shirt to stave off mosquitoes, and while it was unseasonably cool for August, I was by no means chilly. The humidity was so intense my eye glasses kept fogging up, but without them I couldn’t focus the camera with precision.
The shadows around us were intense, made more so by the occasional flashes from my camera. I was sweating, my back ached, and bugs buzzed in my ears, but I was so thankful for this opportunity and my neighbor’s accommodation.
It was spectacular and for one night only. The unusual desert plant called “The Night-Blooming Cereus” is a member of the cactus family, and it blooms for just one night out of the entire year. By morning the large, white, heavenly-scented flower before me would be wilted and have dropped off its stem forever.
The flower itself was the size of a dinner plate with pure white petals at the front, and maroon-tipped petals toward the stem. The stamen looked uncannily like a sea-star and stretched out from the back of the bloom as if the Cereus were sticking out its tongue. I photographed this beautiful, typically desert-dwelling flower for an entire hour as the silent drama unfolded before my neighbor and I. When my back couldn’t take it anymore and my arms shook with fatigue, I finally stood up to stretch and pack up my gear. Before leaving, I turned towards the Cereus and made a little bow. What a show.
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