A friend called me with a book suggestion. "It's the greatest little book," she said. "I've already read it twice--once for fun and once to mark all the great quotes I want to remember."
She ran her copy over to me and sure enough, it was a darling book, small enough to tuck into a purse, but with ideas I would soon discover to be too great to absorb in one reading. As explained, its pages were indeed highlighted and underlined with notes written on most of the pages. Completely intrigued by this little treasure that had so captivated my friend, I dove in.
The story opens with the author's entire extended family attending to what at first seems like a sad chore--packing up generations of memories in their grandmother's old Cattaraugus County, New York farmhouse, tucked into the sweet innocence of Amish country. One of these Amish neighbors extends an invitation for the family to come and join them for an evening ritual of watching their moonflowers bloom. Intrigued, the author and several others attend this strange event, and they leave intrigued by this magnificent, fragile show that occurs at night, quite removed from the bustle of life, missed by all but those who stop long enough to enjoy it.
When the author is given a moonflower plant to take home as a gift, the very nature of this night-flowering spectacle requires her to slow down, stop, watch and wait, removing her from her normal routine and providing new and magnificent perspectives on life.
It is these treasured moments of great wisdom, shared while waiting on and sharing the moonflower's show, that are sprinkled throughout the book, like seeds of wisdom propagated by the gentle moonflower.
The brilliance of the book isn't the originality of the truths illustrated within its pages--insights on making judgments and on the astounding splendor of simple things; counsel to bloom when we're ready and to be gentle with ourselves; reminders of the power of simply being still sometimes--but rather in the way they are delivered. As the title suggests, they come through conversations Hall has with her floral friend, landing on our heart as gently as a butterfly, bringing no guilt, no judgment, only insight and peace imbued with encouragement.
I saw another, perhaps more powerful lesson in the book. For Hall, the moonflower was the catalyst to a different, less hurried, less harried lifestyle, but she shows us a broader truth, that wisdom can be found in small places and events all around each of us if we take the time to look and listen with our hearts.
We do not need a moonflower to learn these lessons, though Hall's book contains an offer to get moonflower seeds. She shows us that the real key was in her attitude that night in the New York countryside when she accepted the invitation to view the moonflower. Some could have discounted the night-blooming flower as wasted beauty, squandered during hours that didn't fit into the world's schedule. Like the Amish, Hall pondered the "why" of such a curious thing, and her answer? Some things are worth the wait.
Conversations with a Moonflower is a gem readers will keep close and return to many times. Though its lessons are genderless, it is written with a woman's perspective, and would make a perfect gift book.