Moonflowers & Morning Glories

[First posted in April 2013 on]

There’s a moment in early spring on the farm in western North Carolina where I live when the redbud trees explode with bright lavender blossoms, and the dogwoods become cascades of white blooms, and the backdrop of mountains behind them glows with the lime green of new growth. It’s only a matter of days before the blossoms fall and the new leaves turn dark green, but the window of time when I glimpse that harmony of color always takes my breath away. I’m stunned every year all over again when I see nature doing what it always does.


This spring I’ve been drawn to ponder the truth that I’ve never heard a pine tree try to convince an oak to hang on to its leaves for the winter. To the best of my knowledge, no morning glory has ever engaged a moonflower in a conversation about the merits of being an early riser or the superiority of worshipping the sun god rather than the moon goddess. No head of lettuce, or vine of snow peas, or stalk of kale has chided a sprig of basil to learn to love the cold. And no Asian pear has dismissed its Bradford cousins as being “merely decorative.”

Whether they provide food, or shelter, or beauty, the plants never seem to question why they’re here. And as far as I know, they never long to be anywhere—or anything—else. They simply go about the business of being true to themselves and doing what they were created to do.

The diversity of nature is mirrored in our humanity. We are “night owls” and “morning people,” winter enthusiasts and summer sun worshippers, introverts and extroverts, passionate activists and quiet contemplatives, artists and farmers and carpenters, devotees to a variety of beliefs and styles that work for us. And when we try to live closely connected in community, sometimes it’s hard to get along.

But I think the plants have it right. They offer no judgment, pull no rank, launch no missions to conform others to their own image. They simply thrive and shine with their unique splendor and abundance—and allow others to do the same.

The redbuds have already begun to shed their lavender blossoms, and the dogwoods are starting to fade. But the flame azaleas and fiery quince bushes have stepped up to fill in the landscape from a different palette. Their striking red tones against the ever greening mountains have a beauty all their own.

I was appreciating them late last week while on an early-morning stroll with my dogs in our high pasture. We walked in a light, misting rain. For a brief moment the clouds parted, and a streak of sunshine emblazoned a rainbow against the gray-aqua sky. Seconds later, the window closed and the rainbow disappeared. But I remain grateful for that reminder that our world is richer for its abundance of colors—and for the many unique and creative ways we have of making it our home.

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