Following an aberrant spell of ‘cool’ weather, our normal late-summer climate of equatorial heat and rains has resumed, cueing the vines that it is time to twine.  Morning glory claims the roses, denuded of leaves by beetles and blackspot, while the ornamental sweet potato vines run rampant in the damp beds, drowning them in waves of chartreuse and purple-black leaves.  The bean vines in the vegetable garden: scarlet runner, purple pole and calico bean, are growing before my eyes after waiting out the uncharacteristically temperate nights of early August.  They make up for lost time clambering up the squash tower, covering the rear arbor, and smothering the rosemary.  Bean pods dangle like edible jewels.
            Vines cover a multitude of sins in the garden, my primary sin at this time of year being that of neglect.  With the semester having commenced two weeks ago, and with classes jammed to the bursting point by the colleges' administrators, FK and I are kept indoors or on the road by work more often than plants (or pets) would like, to the exclusion of almost all other activities.  Our seasonal sidelining is a benefit for the garden pests I would otherwise be eliminating if I had the time.  Beetles have torn the squash leaves to tatters and aphids have blackened the spent lily stalks with smut. But the vines persist in spite of insects and disease, bearing a couple of small but exotic-looking pumpkins in the vegetable garden (these from the volunteers that sprouted in the compost bin).  And of course, nothing seems to stop the beans.  They appear to know that the sand is rushing through their hourglasses at an ever-faster rate, and that the heat of late summer, which seems never-ending now, will break upon shorter days and the promise of frost.  The vine which snoozes loses.

I was treated to a vivid demonstration of that two years ago with a morning glory vine (Ipomoea tricolor) I planted on the entrance arbor to the veg garden.  This little seedling, called 'Blue Billow,' didn't grow very much the first month, nor even the second.  Finally it got a move on in late September, covering the arbor but still, despite my careful inspection of it every morning before driving off to campus, failing to produce a single discernible bud. Suddenly, in October, it cloaked itself in hundreds of buds, and yet, with the nighttime temps cooling noticeably and the maple's leaves turning color and falling on it in drifts, not one flower nudged open.  One morning after a rain I called to my husband to hurry before the damn vine changed its mind, because the flowers were finally opening in celestial trumpets of blue.  I snapped a picture that I intended to linger over in January when the arbor was bare, and am so glad I didn't wait.  Less than forty-eight hours after I took the photo, the season's first frost descended, killing the vine and blasting every blue trumpet on it.  The billow was no more.
          It's hard being a gardener, sometimes.  Harder still, I have discovered, not being one.

          Thoreau wrote that "we are happy in proportion to the things we can do without."  I've had the opportunity to test that theory in the course of recent challenges, and I concur with the sage of Walden Pond. However, I have convinced myself that his concept of 'things' couldn't possibly have extended to chocolate, cats, or morning glories. (After all, this is the sage who occasionally took a break from the cabin to go home and eat his mother's pie.)  In the waning days of summer, I am certain that Henry David would have understood about the vines.  They are non-negotiable.