Blooming clematis!

Indeed, such a goodness that tonight's writing gets an exclamation point. On either side of my garage door are little trellises with generally sickly looking vines crawling on them. In the spring, my landlord cut the vines all the way to the ground. They promptly started growing back, once they'd been shorn of all their dead encumbrance. And last night, getting in the car to leave for dinner at my favorite mid-Ohio restaurant, I realized that the western clematis, the one that gets the most light, has bloomed.

The following story has nothing to do with my quiet adoration of these moon-soft flowers, but I'll tell it anyhow: When I was looking at graduate schools, I stayed with a woman who told me about how her mother, a fervent gardener, got so flustered while explaining sex to her that she said, "And then there's your clematis..." leaving my host to say, "I have a flower?" (Just when you thought that rhetoric was so outworn as to be of no use!)

When I moved to Ithaca, I was certain I would be a terrific gardener. I bought pots of yellow yarrow while I was still in Indiana; I spent a few of my first days in town breaking earth and laying down a brick border and weeding and prepping the most beautiful, rich soil I'd ever seen. I planted the yarrow. I planted some bulbs later in the fall. The next summer, I bought coneflowers, zinnias, impatiens, black-eyed susans, gerbera daisies, and some more yarrow. And bee balm. I laid them all out in the bed so that the right plants would be in the shade at the right time, so that the sun-loving things could climb and grow and thrive. I cut beautiful bouquets all summer long. I watered and kept up with the weeding.

But when the summer ended, I abandoned the garden. Because some of the things I'd planted were perennials, I still had plants and flowers the next summer. But the weeds were formidable--the soil was, as I've said, the richest I've ever seen, and my backyard was full of this very strange weed that reminded me of a carrot gone horribly wrong: its roots were hot orange and everywhere. It was impossible to eradicate. And then the strange weedy trees started growing, and it was all over, another of my sad stories of neglected growth.

I bring that old garden up because one of my dreams, when I first moved to Ithaca, had been to plant heliotropic flowers--particularly morning glories--so that I could watch them open and turn toward the sun every day, before folding in upon themselves at dusk. It has recently been pointed out to me that I attribute human emotions, particularly tender ones, to all manner of non-human things. I don't take umbrage with this observation; I believe that I do invest all manner of things with lives and ongoing stories. Perhaps this makes me a personifier. And somehow, the idea of watching the deep purples and blues of morning glories unfold and refold daily made me feel as though my new life in Ithaca would be one of strong tenderness and tenacious delicacy. I never really considered moonflowers. I'm not sure that I'd ever heard of moonflowers.

It is true that I am in love with so many things (including, now, the entry for "misprint" in my ABC for Book Collectors, in which every instance of "misprint" is misspelled: misprimp, mosprint, misprant, &c.). The lightly soft lavender of these flowers' petals has officially joined the list. Fresh blueberries, now available cheap, have been on for nearly a decade. Grilled sirloin sandwiches on seeded semolina bread on the porch at 3 p.m.? New to the list. Grilled mushrooms? On the list since before I can remember. Evening cool after a day when Weather Underground told me the temperature topped 100? Yes, please.

Now it's time to stroll out into that cool, enjoying the freedom to move without perspiring.