Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Moonflower Days... A Single Day Holds The Entire Cycle of Life...

The brilliant summer hours of light begin to fade... as the sun shuts its sleepy eye on the day. A covert magic is about to unfold as night casts its shadow over the land! The sultry air carries the scent of sweet nectar through a garden filled with flowers that appear to glow in the moon light. Shimmering silvery foliage that was hardly noticed in the day light is transformed as if by magic in the shadows of the nightfall.

~ Maya-Rose Nash, writing about Moonflowers... ~

A moonflower's tight bud in the morning, by night will unfurl...

I am growing closer and closer in sync with Nature. My bodily rhythms are falling in line with the blooming and fading of the flowers, of the metamorphic cycles of the trees all around us, as the leaves change color and drift to the ground, even the insects around us are changing, many disappearing until Spring, and the birds begin their migratory patterns to other lands. Things appear and disappear. Things are born and they die. My mother is dying and the thing that most comforts me, if something can during times like these, is to live very close to animals and nature and watch their endlessly fascinating cycles of life. They are born, they live out their lives, they die, they go to seed, they are born again. I am born again with each season of new bloom. A garden is the greatest teacher about life and death and rebirth, about the cycles and seasons in our own lives. For me, right now, the moonflowers are the greatest teachers of all.

I have long been a devoted fan of morning glories in every shape, size, pattern and hue. I plant them literally by the hundreds every year, along with moonflowers. I have always loved them, but never, until this year, have I been so captivated and entranced by a single flower and it's life cycle. As I am 53 my children are now adults and have begun having their own children. My mother at 81 approaches death even as, today, I will pick up my 3 year old grandson from pre-school and stay with him for the afternoon. I am watching the life cycles of humans as well, all around me, from birth to death, and I see that it is only we humans that fear death. An animal, an insect, a plant, a flower, does not mourn it's passing, but lives fully while it is here, if only for a day.

The tight bud begins to open as the day grows long ...

This summer I am learning about death. Caring for my dear animal companions as well as the wildlings at the feeders, babysitting my precious grandson, these are wonderful things that take me outside of my own grief, fear, and sadness. They are life, they are joy. But nothing has helped me more than watching the daily cycle of the moonflowers, who only recently have begun to bloom here in my coastal North Carolina garden.

A single day holds the whole of our lives. We are born (we awaken) each morning and we die (go to sleep) each and every night. The next day we awaken and are reborn, even as the moonflowers fade from the night before, and the closed bud will, by night, be in her full glory again. This cycle not only comforts me, but it helps me return to my Buddhist roots, to mindfulness, to being in the moment, to treasuring each and every single moment, for a day, like a life, comes and goes quickly, and yet our lives, our lifetimes, are fluid, and the cycle continues on and on. The moonflower reminds me that beginning or end does not matter, because the cycle will never stop, even as it helps me to cherish each and every precious moment.

As night falls, the glorious flower will begin to open,
even as you can see a spent bloom from the day before
behind it...

And then the magic begins...

The swirling open of a huge, brilliant white, fragrant moonflower is one of the most captivating things on the planet. I have caught it in many stages with my camera but only seen one really open on film. I keep going outside my front door where the vines have grown up under the bush I planted them under at all times of the day and night to try to catch that peak moment. I feel like Don Quixote, tilting after windmills, always believing. Some day I shall come at just the right moment and it will thrill me so that I will never forget it for the rest of my life.

I, too, a woman at middle age, am finding myself opening in just such a way. It comes in stages. It cannot be rushed, and the exact moment of transformation can seldom be captured. One day, one simply is. Somewhere down the road, we have become! Something new, something that we never imagined, something miraculous, something wonderful. All of a sudden my joy is contagious just thinking about what might be around the corner.

Until then, I shall wake in the morning and peek out at moonflowers, and try to capture the moment, the exact moment, when a brilliant white bloom swirls wide open, and changes everything around it with it's magnificent metamorphosis. I am going through a metamorphic cycle now as well, and it is deeply felt if not yet seen. Even through the hard time around my mother's endtimes, there can still be joy, revelation, and wonder on many levels. Tonight has been such a night where I have freed myself of something and an obstacle to my well-being has been removed. I feel, in this moment, jubilant!

In the night, and onto into the next morning, the moonflower
will have opened wide, perfuming the air around her and
shining brilliantly through moontime past dawn, but it is
in the night hours that she is in her glory...

A moonflower in all her glory is something to meditate on. She is purity. She is wholeness. She is radiant. And if you look closely there is a five-pointed star in her center. It reminds me of a starfish, one of the most magical creatures in the world, to me. It reminds me how all of nature is connected. The starfish in the sea, the star in the middle of the moonflower, the stars in the night sky, the starry twinkle in a loved one's eyes. I have always loved the bumper sticker that says "The Goddess is Alive and Magic is Afoot." You feel the magic in the garden. I hear my gnomes whispering and giggling with glee, I see the incredibly beautiful Argiope spider in her web hidden in my wild garden, I see wild morning glories and just this evening, on a long walk with the dogs, my breath was taken clean away by the biggest Versicolor Peach Brugmansia I have every seen. It is a very elderly lady who tends her beautiful little garden in front of her little house, and I am so fond of her. We talk each day once or twice as I walk with the dogs. She must sit down on a rolling walker of sorts often to get around and must be well into her 80's, but her bright pinks cheeks and sparkling blue eyes belie the sheer joy she feels in her garden. I believe that tending a garden is the most life enhancing, life sustaining thing there is. Ah, what bounty Nature gives us.

As morning stretches toward noontime, the flower begins
to fade, falling like the sail of a ship descending from it's
fully opened sails to half-mast, until, having completed
their task, they close completely. So, too, the moonflower
on the sea of life...

Finally, comes the time that the morning has worn on and become a little too warm, the sun a little too bright, and that glorious flower from the night before begins to fade. In it's passing it is poignant and yet this stage, too, is full of lessons. We will not live forever, but even in a long lived life there will be many cycles of dying and being reborn, like the Phoenix crashing and burning and rising again. I don't see this moonflower on it's way to death. I see it on it's way to finishing out it's life in this form so that it may wither, drop it's blossom, and finally produce the seeds for another year of moonflowers to continue to bring abundant joy to all who see it. My neighbor has been enchanted. She, a young mother, with a new baby in her arms. And I, a grandmother, realize more and more with each passing year how very much is truly glorious in this world if only we have eyes to see. I am working on a book about woman's relationship with Nature, the healing power of the earth in all her endless bounty, and as I do, taking nature walks with the dogs, always with my camera, and going around and about with my own camera to snap unexpected delights that appear as if from nowhere, I am finding more and more to be grateful for. To catch a glimpse of a snake in the grass, a new juvenile cardinal with it's parents, taking it's first flight, not fully colored, teetering at the edge of the feeder to eat and dip, tottering a bit, into the water bow. The shy squirrels who come to eat and the morning doves I so adore. Just the other day when I was walking with the dogs I saw several bluebirds and thought I had seen the most beautiful, miraculous thing in my life! Glory be! What brilliant blue. What deep delight!

And so, by nightfall, another moonflower
will have opened, even as the one, in her
full glory the night before, has shriveled
unto death, soon to set seed and be reborn.

And finally the endtime comes for the moonflower. Late afternoon I see the shriveled bloom from the day before, the one that shone so brightly with her star shaped middle just above. I don't think she feels sadness or fear, I think she feels gratitude that her work has been done and done well, and that now she can rest and move toward the rest of what is before her to complete her cycle. This is where my mother is right now. The end is very near. She is not afraid to die, she says, she is a woman of faith and will go through the end and beyond to worlds I cannot see, just as I cannot see the seeds being formed in the moonflower pod. But I know something mysterious and magical is happening there. We take it on faith. Just as we don't know, though we may have many theories, what will happen to us after death.

I am learning to trust death as I now trust life. I want to live fully unto the end, and then quietly curl into my seedpod and be reborn.

Plum colored seed pods begin to
form. Rebirth has begun...

Many deep blessings to one and all...



Kathleen Rowe said...

Lovely post. Thank you especially for the complete information on the moonflower's life cycle. I could not find it anywhere else.

Jim Connell said...

Very beautiful piece. Thanks.

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