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.