It’s spring, and I am lugging the camera everywhere in a purse as large as a carry-on suitcase. My usual destinations – Westmoreland Park, UW Arboretum, Olbrich Gardens – are unabashedly crammed with small-scale, blooming trees whose low-hanging branches flaunt their fragrance and petals in our ever-so-grateful, blissed-out faces. After the frozen air has moved on, we can’t help but want to see ourselves reflected in these proud survivors. They kept their magic hidden throughout circumstances that could have done them in. They may even have been made somehow more beautiful by their struggle – or so we like to think. Just like us.
This year, when it comes to seeing magnolias, I feel like I am all thumbs. In previous years, I have poured myself into the lens, and come out “magnolia” on the other side. But this year, I am having a harder time hearing them, or giving in to them. I don’t think that we have grown distant; in fact, I suspect the opposite is true. Over the years, “the magnolia in me” has changed from a figure of speech to a real presence, a place as true as the parking lot. I can’t travel the same path to magnolia now, and for this very reason – ironically – I find myself somewhere I have never been before.