William Wordsworth may have famously wept to see daffodils ‘fade away so soon’. Lucky he didn’t grow morning glory.
This is the first time I’ve grown them – nursing the tiny seedlings, transplanting to pots and finally planting them outside. All that messing around for plants that will vanish at the first frosts, never to return. I don’t normally bother with annual plants, but that perfect blue drew me, and there was a bare archway in the garden in need of some cover.
The flowers, when they finally appeared, were certainly worth the effort. They are perfect, stunning, beautiful, and very brief.
All through August, and still now in September I’ve opened the bedroom curtains each morning, eager to see how many flowers have appeared. Sometimes only one or two, sometimes ten or more. After breakfast I’m outside peering into the flowers, drinking in their incredible colour and feeling such gratitude for their presence. By lunchtime, though, they are fading fast. Visitors who arrive at two or three in the afternoon are told, “Oh if only you’d come an hour or two earlier, you would have seen them.”
All that remains is a crumpled stump of a flower, the petals turned in on themselves, as if ashamed of the toll time has taken on their beauty.
It’s an absurdly short life, isn’t it? Half a day of glory and they’re gone. Certainly there are more blooms to replace them the following morning, but still there’s something curiously poignant in the energy and perfection crammed into those short lives.
A bit like us, really…
I always rather liked the idea of adding memento mori to portraits – the skulls, fading flowers, clocks or hour glasses placed on a side table or held in a hand, to remind the wealthy sitter that ‘this, too, shall pass’, that the fine body and sumptuous clothes are a temporary casing with a limited future.
Gloomy? Perhaps you’ll see it that way. To me it seems just fine. I’m here, in this particular body and life for a few brief decades before moving on. I don’t measure my value in quantity of years, but in quality of life.
So my morning meditation with my morning glory flowers is a mixture of gratitude for the beauty and perfection of this short life, of determination to make the most of every day – every half day, even – and a calm assurance that there will be countless more flowerings of consciousness to come.