Possum Hollow

Posted on July 20, 2010


Drive out the Flat Road past the stone silo, where traces of the Old Pioneer Road climb the ridge, past the ancient Indian settlement with its burial grounds and food pits and gardens, past the Old Antrim City Cemetery where men who came back from the Civil War lie next to children who died in diphtheria epidemics, past the land where the old French names still whisper in the breeze. An imaginative person can drift back into the history of Antrim County and get lost. Or a person can discover the astonishing things some of the neighbors get up to now. I gotta bring us out here more often.

That’s Margie Guyot at Possum Hollow on Sunday afternoon, holding her second-favorite cat, Miss America. Her studio was all fluffed up for the Antrim Artists Studio Tour sponsored by ISLAND. [Ed.: sorry–Parkside Arts Council!]  Color and light were everywhere in images of big, bold cabbages arranged like chess pieces on an orange plaid tablecloth–a blue glass bowl–a gleaming Corvette–pumpkins and pheasant feathers and antlers and . . .

OK, I would show you a whole lot of Margie’s paintings, but you can see better photos of them on her own website. Take a look at Red Cellophane and Peebles Road North of Toad Lake Road.  And looky here–she’d set up a still life and begun drawing it in.  I think she’s going to call it Making Rhubarb Pie.

There is a lot more to tell you about The Adventures of Margie, but for today I’ll leave you with her own story about the Night-blooming Cereus.

Back when I was laid off Ford in the 1980 recession, I got a job in a flower shop in Detroit. The guy had a night-blooming cereus in the greenhouse. I never saw it bloom, but I got to know the odd foliage. Years later I was prowling an estate sale in West Bloomfield and saw a small plant. It looked horrible — like it’d been kicked and fallen down the stairs. Leaves were broken. It was in a small pot with weeds and Christmas cactii. But I knew what it was. “How much is this thing?” I asked. The seller looked at the awful plant, sneered, and said, “Two dollars”. I slapped the cash into her hand and bolted.

The first time it bloomed, I was so excited, I wanted to call everybody, even the police! But it was 2:30 in the morning. I waited until I saw lights come on, around 5:30 and called my neighbors. I sat up all night with it, sketching. A light drizzle fell during the night and I had to keep putting on more clothes. Felt like it deserved my full attention, since the bloom would only last one night. From the sketches I did an oil painting. According to the experts, night blooming cereus are fertilized by bats. So I included a painting of an approaching bat. Somebody bought this painting from a show at the Scarab Club in Detroit.

Over the next 10 years or so I’ve nurtured it and repotted it several times. It’s a tropical plant, so I have to bring it in in cold weather. This spring I repotted it again (it’s got about a 12 foot “wingspan”), fertilized it and set it out on the deck where it gets about 2-3 hours of direct sun. So it rewarded me with four fantastic, dinner plate-sized blooms! Three of its four buds opened on Thursday night, beginning about sunset. Here’s a shot I took about 2:30 AM on Friday morning.  By 5:30 AM, they were fairly well closed, dying.

Margie ran into her neighbor, Pete Peterson, on Friday and told him about the Cereus.  Well, he said, that sounded like something wonderful.  Could he come over to see it?  Certainly. 

The fourth bud opened the next evening. When a bud first opens, it smells wonderful. As the night progresses, it takes on a more disinfectant-type odor.  I think I finally crashed in bed around 3:00 AM.  At 6:30 a racket woke me up.  There was Pete, hollering up at my window.  “Margie!  Where’s that plant you told me about?”

She says it’s a good thing she likes Pete. Now I know just how you are, and I want to put you on notice. The Night-blooming Cereus is done for this year. Please do not creep about in the dark at Possum Hollow looking for giant blooms. You will end up shoveling chicken poop. But that’s another post entirely.