Every day the bougainvillea erupts next door like an active volcano with its bright pink petals flowing down. It's not normal size, but rather one of those monstrous beauties that have gone past all boundaries and would gently devour the whole of our neighbor's porch if she didn't keep it in check.

Its spilling down from the second floor to the sidewalk is monitored by the city whose department of wild life (of course, not its exact name, most likely it's called Department of Reasonable Limitations or Department of Proper Deportment) shows up with its giant clippers in response to well-meaning citizens who have filed a complaint.

The constancy of my friend, the bougainvillea, reminds me of the fact that I have lived here in the same rented house watching it grow over in my neighbor's yard for almost thirteen years—which is for me an amazing amount of time.

Back then, I associated constancy with lack of freedom in my daily choicesConstancy is something that only arrived on my doorstep relatively late in my life. Before that I was a "man of constant sorrow" but there was not much more that stayed the same for long periods of time. In fact I didn't feel I was even capable of the constancy I observed in other people's lives. Nor did I want it since it seemed to come along with boring jobs, conforming life styles, and stifling but constant marriages. Back then, I associated constancy with lack of freedom in my daily choices. Constancy was on a distant shore from where I stood with my sensitivity to the constant flow of life around me and the constantly appearing choices that beckoned to me from all directions.

One day I found myself in a warehouse in San Francisco that had been converted to apartments and studios. Behind each door were a myriad of things happening which made me feel as if I were Alice and had fallen down the Rabbit Hole. In fact, upon opening one of these doors, I found a room with wall to wall rabbits tumbling over and under each other and a woman standing in the middle holding a bunch of green topped carrots.

I found myself in many such in incongruous places. Stalled on a sailboat in the middle of a balmy night. In the computer room at M.I.T. circa 1970 when one computer took up the entire room, and I'm looking at the punch-out cards in my hand without a clue how they work. On a lonely hilltop in the Judean Hills picking out the prickly briars that have stuck to my legs through my stockings.

With a machete in one hand and a banana tree branch in the other as banana leaf juice pours down my arm. Doing back strokes in the backyard pool of a mansion in San Antonio while some crazy dog jumps in after me. Standing in front of a classroom in Aroostook County, Maine where every child there lived in the middle of potato fields, and it was so cold I had to rub my nose back to life.

Sometimes even I was absent, and there was a big donut hole where I should have beenIn a shoemaker's shop in the Arab market of the Old City, Jerusalem as the shoemaker practiced his English on me. On a greyhound bus going Northeast with a knawing loneliness in my heart and a soggy sardine sandwich in my pocket. At a parent teachers meeting in Yiddish where I understood only every third word. In the middle of a Harvard freshman mixer, and everyone has been asked to dance except for me which gives me a terrible stomach ache. Lying prone on a hospital bed and some nurse yelling at me in Hebrew that I'm not giving birth fast enough. And obviously, the list is endless.

One constant in my equation should have been me, but even that centeredness was not always the case. Sometimes even I was absent, and there was a big donut hole where I should have been.

With such inconstancy in my personal history, I didn't make such good marriage material, probably because I am very hard to measure and define. And I vaguely remember myself being described by that epithet "She's not good marriage material" which placed me in the category of cheap, flimsy chiffon unraveling at the edges.

When the woman who introduced me to my husband brought the up the idea of the match, she described me as "a tall, skinny schoolteacher from Maine." I had a laugh when I heard that one since tall, skinny schoolteachers from Maine are probably about as constant as they come. Our matchmaker wasn't pulling his leg. Yes, I was tall and skinny, and I had once taught school in Maine. But why she chose those three facts to relay my essence, I will never understand. My husband later admitted to me that her one line description didn't make him particularly excited by the idea of our meeting and he was extremely relieved when I turned out to be someone quite alive.

So how is it possible that I have remained married to the same man for almost thirty years, may G‑d keep us together until we are both 120. This inconsistency may call for a new definition of constancy as applied to marriage. It is not the constancy that preserves in formaldehyde or chains one hand and foot to the same fence or swears one's allegiance to an unchanging star. It is not the constancy of two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen in a glass of water, although even that constancy has been questioned by modern physics. It is not the constancy of the sun rising and the sun setting every single day of world history.

I didn’t make such good marriage material, probably because I am very hard to measure and defineThe constancy of my marriage reminds me again of that erupting bougainvillea over in my neighbor's porch. Its roots stay in place but its branches refuse their boundaries. It grows around fences and walls. It refuses to give up climbing. Pruning only encourages it to grow faster and more defiantly. There is nothing more beautiful or romantic than its gorgeous pink flowers that bloom constantly through summer and winter.

The magnificent bougainvillea is always there in the same corner, but it keeps taking up more and more space under the sun. It defies all attempts to measure and contain it.

With all that is ugly in human relations and power struggles, the very existence of the bougainvillea speaks to us of light, beauty, harmony, sanity, and hope. It's a constant inspiration for anyone who lays their eyes on it and understands that with a little water and lots of sunshine, the sky's the limit to where it can reach. Like my marriage, its existence seems like a natural, every day occurrence, but look closer and you see the miraculous.