In the midst of spring is when I find it hardest to believe spring will ever come again. I want to shout, “Wait, wait for me!” to every rose or cream or blistering fuschia branch that whizzes by me as I sit, stationary in my car, waiting to arrive wherever. My heart does not feel big enough to receive, never mind contain, the life radiating towards Something no more or less wonderful than its Self. Maybe I am radiating, too, in sympathy with the coded message ciphered by the leaves and petals and twigs and stems. ”Come with us,” they whisper. ”We are going your way.”
As those of you who have regularly parked a car in an urban center know, parking karma is no myth, and it is not a funny joke. Driving around the same blocks, over and over, watching for signs of a parking space – shining white back up lights, a person strolling into the street with keys in hand – takes on the ritual depth of any circumambulation. City dwellers perform this ritual because they must, and everyone agrees that, over the years, if it is done with a pure and humble heart, eventually you will achieve uncanny access to just the perfect parking place at the perfect moment.
Although the tree here blossoms in white, I consider it to be part of The Pinkness, and the fact that it lives less than 20 feet from my parking space is no coincidence. I firmly believe that in exchange for the convenience of a Guaranteed Perfect Parking Space, the Universe has cashed in my parking karma rewards, earned, block by futile block, in Chicago, a lifetime ago.
Of course, you can’t earn a blessing as lovely as this tree through merit or devotion. All you can do is this: Open your eyes. Get out your camera. Realize to your great shame and delight that in 7 years, you never noticed before that it was raining petals on you as you walked to your car.
No, the sky wasn’t really that blue. But it is important to note that there is nothing wrong with confusing the world we wish to see, and seeing the world as it actually is. In fact, we get nowhere until we accept the reality of both visions. Why do we need to know the difference between the shine of sunlight and the sparkle of buds yearning towards it, concentrating it into another substance altogether, distilling the starry presence into life itself? As if the world as it actually is could be somehow less celestial than we can possibly dream.
My yellow magnolia is a late bloomer. By “my yellow magnolia,” I mean the one which the University Arboretum has been maintaining for me. By “late bloomer,” I mean it blooms about a week after the pink magnolias uncup their buds and drink in whatever the spring skies give forth. This tree is easy to locate; in the spring, it is the only yellow tree on the entire grounds.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed last weekend when I went for my annual visit to the yellow magnolia. The long, puckered petals untwisted randomly from its upright buds, forming asymmetrical shapes that didn’t seem to say “flower.” Their color was pale, barely more than cream, when butter is the shade I remember. The branches were thick with jagged twigs, tipped with lonely flowers on the very end, an odd mix of over abundance and isolation.
I stayed with this tree for a long time. I love it so very much. Maybe I feel we are alike in some ways, taking our losses with the risk that later, when the time is right, our potential may not quite be reached. We make what we can of the moment, when it comes, and feel a certain gratitude for what is gained, which is, after all, another shot at another imperfect moment, this time, next year.
When I pause to create an entry to share, often my heart is throbbing with guilt. The day is not going as it should. My little ship is rapidly approaching the Falls, which I am sure to tumble over, just as soon as lunch is finished. Honestly, I don’t know how I manage to write anything at all, sometimes.
But of pink magnolias, and blue skies, I have no doubts. They will always, always be more than I can see at once. I can crane my neck and hold my breath and never know for sure, until it is too late to try again. Failure is almost guaranteed. But it is my truest pleasure to keep trying.
I’ve been carrying Susannah Conoway’s incredible image of a magnolia branch in my mind ever since I first saw it two years ago. It’s beautiful, of course, but what is so mesmerizing to me is how vividly she has captured her experience of spring.
After prowling around this magnolia for at least an hour, looking and shooting, and trying to watch it honestly, I felt I was getting nowhere. Realizing it was almost time to go home, I decided I would try my evening meditation in the company of the magnolia. I sat on a bench where I could see it. The tension, the urgency of each image I was looking started to unwind as I looked at the pink mass of petals shifting in the exhalations of a light breeze. I listened to the rumble of skateboarders and laughter of neighbors enjoying their view the park. I wondered, “What is this feeling I have for this tree? What is it I want from it?”
One word rose up, clear as a bell. ”Devour.”
Just sitting on a bench in the park is nothing fancy. Craving the resurgence of life in springtime is nothing special. So after the timer on my phone went off, I got up and went back to the tree for a while, with my camera. This is what she gave me. I feel very, very blessed.