Annual Magnolia Walk: Everyday Magic, Day 935

Every March, I seek the magnolia trees growing recklessly in Kansas where it’s almost guaranteed that their tree-full of pink blossoms will meet Mean Old Mr. Winter with a fury. These trees are meant to grow in warmer climes, but they seem to survive okay here despite an annual attack (or two) of icy temperatures, turning those fragrant and curvy blossoms sad and brown-edged.

I love magnolia trees. Let me be more honest: I really and deeply love magnolia blossoms, and it’s one of my recurring nightmares to miss them in their prime, especially since those prime weeks can be reduced to a few days, depending on the mood swings of the weather. Today is such a cusp: it was in the low 60s, windy with a particular kind of cold wind that announced far more cold was coming. Tonight? A low of 23 expected. So I set out to be with my people, I mean, trees.

Here is the one I cozied up with the most because I was ill-dressed for that cold wind. It’s a twin, accompanied by another magnolia on the other side of the front of Central Junior High School. These trees guard this bastion of changing hormone levels like statues of golden lions, except without the gold or the lion. Looking up through the tree, once again, I was enthralled,  and grateful. Some blossoms aren’t able to last nearly long enough, so when it’s time, it’s time.

As someone who also hasn’t mastered much of the art of holding back, I resonate with these trees, growing in a different climate than were they were native, but homing in to beauty and exuberance none-the-less. Here is my poet about these friends:

Magnolia Tree in Kansas

 

This is the tree that breaks

into blossom too early each March,

killing its flowers. This is the tree

that hums anyway in its pool of fallen

petals, pink as moonlight. Not a bouquet

on a stick. Not a lost mammal in the clearing

although it looks like both with its explosions

of rosy boats – illuminated, red-edged.

Not a human thing but closer to what we might be

than the careful cedar or snakeskin sycamore.

It cries. It opens. It submits. In the pinnacle

of its stem and the pits of its fruitless fruit,

it knows how a song can break the singer.

In the brass of its wind, it sings anyway.

Tree of all breaking. Tree of all upsidedown.

Tree that hurts in its bones and doesn’t care.

Tree of the first exhalation

landing and swaying, perfume and death,

all arms and no legs. Tree that never

learns to hold back.

Magnolia Tour 2012: Everyday Magic, Day 518

Every year, they explode open too fast only to be killed by some midnight frost that comes in mid March. Most years, I tell myself I will stop whatever I’m doing and walk among us, marveling at their color, shape, scent while there’s still time, but then the time evaporates, and I only find pools of fallen petals, browned at the edges.

Not this year, however. Thanks to a non-winter winter and a shockingly early spring (I mean, some redbuds are coming out already!), the magnolia trees are a blaze of pink and white, daintily unfurling all over time. So I took my camera and my feet and headed out yesterday through East Lawrence.

The tulip magnolia as well as others obviously aren’t, or at least weren’t, so suited for Kansas extremes, but I still fell in love with them when I first discovered this extraordinary blossoming tree. I could go on and on about magnolias, but my poem about them speaks most to how I feel and why I love them so much.

Magnolia Tree in Kansas

This is the tree that breaks

into blossom too early each March,

killing its flowers. This is the tree

that hums anyway in its pool of fallen

petals, pink as moonlight. Not a bouquet

on a stick. Not a lost mammal in the clearing

although it looks like both with its explosions

of rosy boats – illuminated, red-edged.

Not a human thing but closer to what we might be

than the careful cedar or snakeskin sycamore.

It cries. It opens. It submits. In the pinnacle

of its stem and the pits of its fruitless fruit,

it knows how a song can break the singer.

In the brass of its wind, it sings anyway.

Tree of all breaking. Tree of all upsidedown.

Tree that hurts in its bones and doesn’t care.

Tree of the first exhalation

landing and swaying, perfume and death,

all arms and no legs. Tree that never

learns to hold back.