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We Only Bloom For a Night

By Brandon Alter:

Epiphyllum oxypetalum

The Giant Cactus in my backyard grows flowers. Not a ton. Maybe one or a two a year, usually at the end of spring. These flowers are huge and gorgeous with silky petals like a lily, but it took me years to actually see one in full bloom. I would notice them in the bud, their long stem reaching out like a robot arm. Day by day, I would chart their progress—and then one morning I would discover that they’d already opened and shut. I would be disheartened, wondering how I could have missed it?! Then I realized, these flowers only bloom at night—and they only bloom for one night. That’s it. If you miss it, they’re gone.


Knowing this, now, I check the buds around sunset. And two nights ago, one was slowly opening. I stopped whatever I was doing, rushed outside and settled in for the show. For an hour or so I watched her slowly unfold those graceful petals and reveal those long yellow pistils (that look like alien antenna). I marveled at how she took her time, even when the wind try to force her open, she kept her resolve. She was firmly committed to blooming at her own pace. I called Angel out to watch. "She’s opening!" I exclaimed.


Later we were chatting about the flower and its dramatic impermanence. Angel mentioned how sad it was that she only gets to live for one night. But I said, "Imagine what the spirit of the mountain must think when it looks at all of us human beings." The lifespan of a mountain is vast compared with our own. The mountain must look at us and think, What a pity, those human beings, they only bloom for a night. I’ve really been sitting with this. Because truth be told, isn’t our life just one long night?


A little light googling taught me that these cactus flowers are actually called Queen of the Night—how perfect is that?

If our life is one long night, are we acting like queens? Are we standing in our sovereignty, blooming at our own pace, and making the most of our time from sunset to sunrise?

I hope so. I hope the teachings of this one remarkable flower help us all to lean in hard to the sacred impermanence of our own lives. I love you, you beautiful flowers!


BRANDON ALTER is a spiritual healer, Tarot reader, teacher, mystic and writer living in Los Angeles. He is passionate about sharing spiritual tools that have helped him reconnect to the wisdom of his heart. Brandon is a thoroughly trained healer, astrologer and yoga teacher who co-hosts The Spiritual Gayz with his husband, a twice-monthly podcast dedicated to exploring the wide reaches of spirituality, without pretending that it all makes sense. Brandon’s mom took him to his very first psychic when he was seven and gave him his first Tarot deck when he was eleven. Since then he has devoted himself to the study of Tarot, Yoga, Pilates, Reiki, Astrology and the myriad ways one can work and heal with the help of the spirits.

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