Place Where You Live:

Morning Glory

The temple bell stops,

but the sound keeps coming

out of the flowers.

— Matsuo Basho

It is likely the last warm day of the year and the morning glories are already open. It’s not even seven. Sitting on the deck the low sun creates a haze in the garden, and around the tips of these blue-vined blooms there seems to be a halo—one which echoes on the fuzzed bumblebees who slide into flower after flower, legs dangling below, as if on wobbly zip lines. Everything is sunlight.

In the long yellow throats of morning glories the bees rest for a moment, perhaps reflecting, calculating, perhaps getting oriented. Then each pulses—the bloom seems to shutter all the way from the stamen’s core to the petal’s tip, and the front legs of the bee push pollen to the caches on the hind legs.

All morning this October bees collide with the blooms. Dozens at once, hundreds each hour, thousands each day. The asters have begun to fade, the ironweed and sunflowers are turning to seed, but the morning glory waits for that fragile dip into winter, the morning when the air barely freezes, and for a few days afterward each bee must work harder to open the limp, closed blooms and gather what’s left. Back in the hive the queen will take what’s brought to her, the only one who will survive the winter and begin the colony again in spring.

One morning, a day or two past frost, a bee is on the ground, just below the dying morning glories. Bending down carefully I nudge it with my finger and it flickers its wings, briefly pulses its body like a ringing phone. I blow on it as softly as I can. I blow again. It rights itself, wipes its eyes with a foreleg, then lifts toward a part of the garden where the sun is warming the chokeberry’s red, autumn leaves. The sky is a crisp, clear blue, perfectly empty, perfectly absent of life, but still holding the echo of migrations. Above me in the wrinkled green leaves, toward the end of one young vine not yet touched by its silent heart, a morning glory is about to bloom.