This post is part of the ‘inspirational stories for women’ and ‘stories that heal’ series. Writing ‘Morning Glory’ I learned that sometimes a memory waits years to bring you its message…
When I was five, my father planted morning glories in the window of the bedroom my sister and I shared in our tenement apartment at 600 West 163rd Street in Manhattan. The morning glories climbed from their window box up the metal bars of the fire escape, a shocking sight against brick, concrete and iron. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Our bedroom window looked out on an alley, with just a few feet of space between our building and the next. Fire escapes ran up and down the sides of both buildings, people strung clotheslines between the two buildings to hang their wash out to dry. From our fourth floor window we could watch the neighbor on the third floor of the building across the way walk around all day in bra and slip, yelling at her many children; in the evenings, I could lean out the window and watch a small black and white TV in her apartment after my sister and I had been sent to bed.
One evening I craned my neck to look up at the slim panel of night sky between the two buildings and I could have sworn that I caught a glimpse of Santa’s reindeer and sleigh on their way to make deliveries. Another evening I dreamed that all four Beatles climbed into my room through the fire escape window to rescue me and take me away with them.
Many years later, participating in a coaching exercise about “if I was a bloom, what flower would I be?” those morning glories zoomed to the forefront of my mind for the first time in years. As I saw their delicate tendrils against the backdrop of the alleyway, I thought, “No! That’s not right. I should be a bolder flower, in a more natural setting.” But the image persisted, window box, fire escape, alleyway, and all.
Sigh. I resigned myself and went with it, still kicking and screaming a bit on the inside.
What type of flower are you? A morning glory, just unfurling its petals. (No! I want to be flamboyant like a lily, or at least as bright as a tulip, for heaven’s sakes! Or perhaps classic and mysterious like a rose. But a morning glory? Give me a break.)
The exercise continued:
How much sun does it get? Very partial sun, between the buildings. (Grrr. Couldn’t I have come up with something a bit more wholesome?! After all the work I’ve done on myself, I’m still in a pot on a fire escape in an alley?!)
Source of nutrition? The soil. (Well, at least I have my little pot of soil. Soil is soil, right?)
What does it need to flourish in any climate? It needs to move to the country. (At last – an escape hatch! Yay!)
If your flower could transform or morph itself, what would it become? A pine tree. (Yes! A majestic pine! That’s more like it!)
What else does your flower want to say?
It wants to say: I am strong; I will survive; I bring beauty to my surroundings no matter how ugly they are. I am as pure here in this window box as I would be in the wilds of Borneo.
The morning glory follows the laws of her own nature, no matter where she is set. Her own nature is the only blueprint she needs to bloom. She is not limited by or identified with her setting, her past or her environment. She is true to her own nature.
I remember my childhood home. There wasn’t much beauty there. There were things that made my soul recoil: it wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t clean; the linoleum was torn; closets threatened avalanche if you dared their depths. There were roaches. Many roaches.
There was creativity, which I loved, but the art was my mother’s. I did not see myself fully reflected there.
The morning glory was the first thing that I connected with fully in my young life. I saw it as a miracle, a creature from another planet amid the grayness of the alley, following her nature, reaching for the sun, opening to the light every morning and closing to the dark every night, a perfect star of white radiating from the center of each blossom against a delicate background of mystic blue. A miracle.
Yes, beauty, freedom, and fresh breezes are lovely; I see that my soul craves more contact with nature, and I will try to make that happen. Yet, in fact, there are many ways I can bring more beauty into my life right now. And the most important lesson is to recognize the integrity of my nature, no matter what surrounds me.
Morning glory, you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. That first sight of you initiated me into a love of nature for the rest of my life – and to think that I hadn’t thought of you all these years.
When I was twelve I moved to my dad’s new house in the suburbs and I never spoke of my home on 163rd Street again. I was now officially a spoiled middle class teenager. It was as if those first twelve years had never happened. But they are inside me, as is the morning glory who, so many years ago, planted the seeds of a lesson that I am reaping only today.
Old friend. Ancient teacher. Hello, again! You held so many messages for me. Thank you, morning glory. Glory. Hallelujah.
Reba Linker is author and coach specializing in inspirational books for women. Her book, Follow the Yarn, leads by example, daring and encouraging others to ‘follow their own yarn,’ tell their own stories, and discover their own true voice.