I’m not sure we could ever declare with certainty when this morning glory came into being.
Will its birth only occur once the trumpet is all the way opened (sometime just after dawn)?
Was it when the spiraling bud first began to unfurl (when I and this corner of the world still slept)?
Or maybe it was born when the little knot appeared on the vine, tiny precursor to a bud. Maybe we should go back even further than that, to the seedling that sent up its perfect green shoots this spring and managed to avoid my grasp as I thinned the group. But remembering those freely-sown volunteers takes me further back, to last season, when I was too lazy to pull down the spent vines in autumn, allowing the seed pods to burst and scatter their descendants all over the moist soil, where they were quickly buried by falling leaves. An ancient dance.
And then, because it’s me, I have to ask: Was this glowing purple blossom, surely deserving of the name “morning glory,” born when I first planted the seed for last year’s vine — or perhaps when I first conceived of a garden here and F.’s shovel blade first sliced through the sod?
We could go back farther to look for the origins of morning glory essence, and that would be quite far for an heirloom morning glory whose seeds have been saved for over a hundred years. We could extrapolate into the future, too, wondering if a morning glory achieves its purpose and destiny and becomes a true Morning Glory only once a honeybee goes hunting for nectar deep inside that pale, delicate throat, emerges coated in shimmering pollen… and zips off to sip another flower, keeps the whole thing going.
From a certain angle, at least, it’s all process. The morning glory is always unfolding, forever becoming. Never completed, never having arrived, and never at a definite end-point. Certainly it’s never a finished product. It’s hard for organic beings to become finished products. And we human beings are organic, of course — whether we ever try to live green or join a CSA or grow our own pesticide-free food.
We typically spend all this time and energy seeking that final destination point, the end of the path when we will have arrived or achieved our goal of the minute, or year, or decade. The goal circles around our minds, draining us of energy, making us feel bad for not having gotten there already. And for what? So that we can move on to the next want on our list, the next thing that everyone expects of us, the next thing that is supposed to finally make us happy and fulfilled.
The very next thing that keeps us from enjoying this thing that is our life, unfolding like a precious bud, right now.
Maybe our brains are wired that way, and maybe it’s cultural or economic — but it’s definitely not a reality-based approach to living. Better to take a deep breath, forget all that, and focus on the slow unfolding, the glory of this moment… and this moment, and this moment, and this moment. That’s where life occurs, after all, and that’s all we ever get to experience.
An older artist and sage once told me to think of my art — and my life, if possible — as “process, not product.” And I know now just how wise she was to redirect my focus. Not that I don’t forget and need to be reminded all over again occasionally. The cyclical nature of life in my garden is one of the best gentle reminders I’ve encountered.
Week 26 of Focus, the halfway point of the experiment, appropriately enough, saw me cycling back around to one of the original reasons I had for choosing “focus” as my word of 2010: awareness of the present moment. This week was all about me unfurling, morning-glory style, before my very own eyes — and also about the steady revelation of the narrow slice of path directly in front of my foot, about the way the future unfolds itself very carefully, very simply, perpetually becoming now as if there were nothing to this cosmic magic trick.
I hope we’ll all take at least a moment to enjoy the future-become-present on this lovely Saturday. It won’t ever be coming ’round again quite this way.