In moments of exhaustion and the inability to focus on my writing, I've at least tried to keep thinking about my prose manuscript by coming up with a title. As a poet of 17 years, I know the importance of a title--it's not simply something that sells books or grabs your attention, but it must also pull its own weight thematically, metaphorically, descriptively. Sometimes the title gives vital information to understand the layered meaning of the text.
So when I think about my now 260 page manuscript, a memoir / nature / history of garden and religion / who knows what else book, I go in as I would a poem and try to find a re-occuring image, something that resonates, something that keeps popping up. And I find morning glories.
But I'm wary about the history of the plant, something I'd like to include in the book, but even if I don't, check it out:
"Morning glories are poisonous if injested. Certain varieties are a hallucinogen. The Chinese used it as laxative. Meso-American civilations used it to convert latex, via sulfur in the seeds, to rubber 3,000 years before Goodyear did.
Besides being both food crop and garden ornament, some notorious Ipomoea species have been used for their hallucinogenic properties. The Aztecs ingested the seeds of I. tricolor—which contain a lysergic acid alkaloid—during rituals to commune with their gods. It was risky business, as who knew whether the gods wanted to communicate or not, and it's certain the seeds are toxic and potentially lethal."
Someone who picks up the book might know this history, but most probably won't. Still, as I use research and work hard to make sure facts are indeed facts, I wonder if fact is only a matter of degree, or even if it's a matter of personal perspective. Like memory. Or love.
I am falling in love with my book and I know this is a dangerous proposition. I don't want it sullied or harangued from any angle as if it were a politican's pregnant daughter. Some day, lord willing, it will go out on its own as a message in a bottle, or a fledgling, or these monarchs I keep sending off. The more I edit in prose, the more I appreciate the emotional investment a lifetime of words have, and the more I understand why so many of us are silent or so easily hurt, or why even a touch or smile or laugh can save us.
As my open window lets in a cool early autumn breeze that's sliding through distant elms and maples--and as the crickets and frogs echo this wind--I remember that these words are not the only ones that give us life, and that they are as necessarily fleeting.
And so, for now, it is Morning Glory: A Memoir of Place and Family in the Garden.