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.

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