I used to hate cacti - monotonous, miserable, malignant things, I thought, best abandoned to vultures and gun-gripping cowboys. I hoped a savage, whistling wind would blow them off the planet - to Mars, if necessary.
How very fickle I am. For some time now, seeing cacti as survivors, in a landscape where we're often enough stricken by drought, my way of seeing has altered.
I find them not only strikingly sculptural, but also, with their slow-evolving persistence and quirky formations, a genus to admire. I feel protective towards them, having a better sense of their vulnerability and courage.
And I can turn my back on them, completely forgetting all about them, and they'll make whoopee in my absence. How very congenial.
Most of mine are in pots, as seen here, but a number - usually rescued from a one-way trip to the graveyard or a callous neighbour - are scattered about in the garden, giving an air of permanence and stark dignity.
On days when I'd sooner draw a curtain on the bigger picture, having a miniature garden of quietly-achieving plants that so much look after themselves is a bit like sitting quietly myself, letting the lusher world sweep vulgarly where it will, without me, into its own oblivion.
P.S. Not all specimens above are cacti, in the strict sense of the word.
P.P.S. Not all strictness is sensible.