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Moonflowers

In the hours before daybreak the other morning a low-lying fog obscured the town and softened the streetlights under the stars. A single moonflower had opened at nightfall. Now there are a dozen, the first light of a new day glowing through the undersides of the huge white blooms. For those who are not familiar with moonflowers, every flower lasts for one night only.

Some people are contemptuous of the moonflowers I love, regarding them almost as weeds, what with the velvet dark leaves as big as saucers, what with the plant growing in a season to be a great bush. The seeds encased in their bristly green pods are potentially Jack’s giant beanstalk replicated many times.

Moonflowers have their fans in this world. My first moonflower seeds were given to me fourteen years ago. It is quite likely that they were descendents of moonflowers that once grew in this very place. I am not the first to have moonflowers growing next to this front porch.

Mr. and Mrs. Pape, who once lived in this house, took time to harvest and keep the moonflower seeds and to plant them each spring. It was one of their daughters, Donna, who gave me a little envelope of seeds, long after the folks were gone.

The house where we have lived for almost fifteen years was built around 1930, a small one-story four-room affair. The late Bernard Clark, who farmed west of town, told us that he had watched the house being moved from Elgin out to Wheeler County by horse and wagon. Some years later, in 1950, he saw it moved back to town, this time on the flatbed of a truck. The new owners, Greg Pape and his wife, set the house on a new basement and added three rooms to the north and this front porch to the east.

No doubt it was the Pape family who planted the cottonwoods and maples and pines that now all but hide our house away. Occasionally I come upon little remnants of their lives here—a rusted buckle from horse harness or a padlock with nothing any longer to keep out or in, a chip broken from a china cup.

On these late summer mornings a profusion of moonflowers wait for the morning sun, which of course will be their undoing.  For the little time remaining they offer their pillowy shelter to any passing hummingbird or bumblebee. The moonflowers are the gift of those who once lived here and whom I never knew.

And in All

Yesterday I stood before the congregation to read from the Letter to the Ephesians, that God is above all and through all and in all. This passage was the same as three years ago; our churches follow the lectionary, a three-year cycle, in which this is one of the Scriptures designated for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In August, 2009, these same words from Ephesians, the fourth chapter, were the beginning of my poem, “Communion.” But yesterday, August 5, 2012, was hardly the same as that near-perfect Sunday afternoon of three years ago. Yesterday we came home from church to hear news of six worshipers killed in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; this terror had taken place at the very time we had been gathered with our own friends at the Lord’s table.

Late in the day, a leader of the Sikh community promised prayers for the family of the aggressor as well as for the families of the victims—because, he said, we are all children of God. In my poem, now here for you to read, I had wished to be an open soul, at peace. There are in this world and in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, men and women of peace.

Communion

Worship was at eleven, now it is
past three, and I am at home again
on the porch, in my accustomed chair.

The porch screen, while keeping out
mosquitoes, gnats, and flies, lets in
all the great outdoors: breezes washing

through the cottonwoods, songs of birds
and of the first crickets, a neighbor’s
wind chimes, the rumbling heartbeats of

youth cruising Main, three blocks over—
–and today, the first Sunday in August,
shimmering of poplars, silver cobwebby

threads adrift on nearer sky, shadows
of the blue spruce. I could wish to be
thus, neither a wall nor a window,

instead, an open soul, at peace; for as
was read in church today, God is above
all and—think of this—through all and in all.

At the Salon

Here I am, and at my age, often glancing at my brightly polished toes housed in sandals instead of my usual socks and sneakers. A friend and I, having decided on a ladies’ day out, drove miles to Grand Island yesterday for a nice lunch and to shop for some things I needed to complete my mother-of-the-groom outfit, the wedding being just around the corner. Lastly—and this was the real reason for our excursion—I followed my friend into the shop to experience what she said I would love, a pedicure.

It seemed to my sedate and staid self the very height of frivolity, We took our places as directed in massage chairs, each quipped with a footbath, across from where the manicures are given. Working in the salon were three  women, who, all while performing their ministrations, conversed among themselves in Mandarin, perhaps, or Cantonese. Because of the height of the chair and the humble nature of the task, I found myself gazing upon the bowed head of the young woman holding my feet in her capable hands.

Uncomfortable at first, I was like Peter saying to the Lord, “You shall never wash my feet!” But washed, scrubbed, trimmed, soundly buffed, and altogether given kindly attention were my feet, which afterward were the better for it. His touch while bathing the feet of his disciples would have been less impersonal; thus footwashing is sometimes called a sacrament. Still, yesterday, I could not help but see in that cluttered, humid, cheerfully lighted space in the mall, three angels, their little bottles of colors and lacquers accomplishing beauty or the illusion of it. They are there again today, I am sure, bent forward on their low chairs, their lustrous dark hair swept back and pinned to keep it out of their way.