Lilac Pinkness



They came inside, but they didn’t linger long.  I gave them plenty of water to drink, but it didn’t help.  They spent their perfume with me for a few hours, and while I dreamt, they died.
It doesn’t matter.  Everything about them was perfect for a moment.


Weathering Pinkness


We went back to the Rosey Tree, whose pinkness is so ample, so sumptuous, so bosomy, she cannot help but be an ancient creature.    “Oh, look how few branches are blooming,” my friend Liz said as we took out our cameras. “She was full last year!”  I knew Liz was right, but I didn’t want to agree.  I want my Rosey Tree to be ok.  “The winter was really hard on her.  Maybe the buds froze,”  I say.

In past years, Rosey Tree overwhelmed me.  Enumerating even the tiniest twigs, bubbles of petals dangled like ripe cherries, unfolding into clustered bouquets like perfect, tiny cabbage roses.  Engulfed in their profuse re-iteration, my emotions would careen between panic and delight. Even as I surrendered my heart to the hope that Rosey Tree herself would somehow transcend my clumsy camera work, my thoughts would rush forward to anticipate the inadequate pictures I was making.  I never even noticed the scent of her blossoms.  Rosey Tree’s flowers have a delicate fragrance, like dainty gift soap, or honeysuckle.

This year seems to me to be Rosey Tree’s finest. Her branches sparsely decorated, her blooms more widely opened than I remember –  she is exuberant, not rampant.  That she had something, anything to give this year – after the brutal cold could have stripped her of every tender node – has only made her lovelier.  At last, I felt I could get close to her – close enough to recognize her scent, to find the form of her branches and to experience her endurance.  I found a sense she welcomed me, and I was happy to find myself in her home, once more.

Unfinished Pinkness


Turns out – the yellow magnolia were not quite finished being magical.  Honestly, there is just more pinkness surrounding me than my eyes can hold.  Reaching out  for one-at-a-time flowers, single and human in scale, brings the pinkness closer somehow.  Even if, in this case, the pinkness is creamy yellow.

Oh Pinkness


I don’t like feeling tired and discouraged.  Even the pinkness is overwhelming me.  So many petals, promises in their infinity, calling out to the bees and the breeze, “Pick me, pick me!”

I am the limitation, of course.  The sadness rises inside me because I can’t see even one of these floral clouds completely.  There is only so much pinkness a girl can take.

Pinkness Koan


Really, Brenna?  How long can it take to post about lilacs filling the air with the scent of honey and vanilla, so that any living creature is bound to surrender, to submit their will and ask, how can I help you pollinate?

Answer:  Eternity, and a lunch hour, give or take.

Waiting Magnolia


In Spring of 1999, Craig and I discovered Magnolia “Elizabeth, ” densely clustered with yellow blossoms,  planted at the edge of Longenecker Horticultural Garden’s collection of magnolias.  Smelling faintly of “Lemon Joy” dish detergent, her petals gleamed in the pale April sunshine.  An uncommon variety, subtly fragrant, and a reliable bloomer in USDA zone 4a, “Elizabeth” was, in my opinion, a perfect tree.  I knew right where I wanted to plant my yellow magnolia, behind our new house.  I would watch the golden, bird-like buds spread into lotus-shaped cups as I sipped coffee on our back porch.  I would catch a hint of lemony sweetness on the breeze through the kitchen window as I washed our dishes.  I took out the pocket notebook where I was compiling a list of plants we wanted for our landscape, and wrote “Magnolia Elizabeth” at the top of the list.

Before a spadeful of dirt could be turned, however, or a yellow magnolia planted, a Grand Backyard Scheme must be devised.  Craig considered all the factors.  Our plan had to be both simple and sophisticated; it had to demonstrate exacting taste and sensitivity to the site.  A seemingly bottomless reservoir of pent-up imagination poured through his mechanical pencil onto sheets of tracing vellum.  Berms and ground-level decks, benches and perennial beds overwhelmed me with choices.  No matter how much I liked the plan Craig showed me, there was always a little more work to do before we could choose a design and start digging.

“This year, we might not plant anything, honey, ok?  This year, we’ll let the grass grow and I’ll mow some paths to try out, ok?  Your tree will be in there, I promise.”  But that summer the location of the water feature and the proximity of the grilling area to the kitchen could never quite be resolved.  Planting the magnolia had to wait.  The following year, a source for perfect mid-century paving blocks could not be located, so the size of perennial bed had to be reconsidered, including the location of the magnolia.  Grass would grow, leaves would fall, and Craig would return to drawing another, better backyard for next year.  In our unused real-life backyard, there was still literally nowhere to plant my yellow magnolia.

When our 10 year marriage ended, so did the stalemate with our backyard.  We sold the house’s insufficiencies – and the decisions that couldn’t be made about how to correct them – to someone else.  At the final walk through with the new owner, Craig handed the confident young man dozens of tabloid sheets of tracing vellum – all the plans he had drawn for kitchen remodels, entry way relocations, and landscaping features.  “There’s no reason for me to keep these now” he said, “maybe you’ll – there’s a lot of ideas here.”   “Cool, cool,” the new owner replied, taking the drawings, a little confused.  Craig was suddenly embarrassed, realizing for the first time that the house might actually seem good enough to this guy, just the way it was.

I don’t miss the house on the east side of Charles Lane, just south of Tokay, but I wouldn’t have minded leaving a tree full of yellow flowers there for the next person.   If we had planted one the spring we found “Elizabeth,” she  would be about 14 years old today.  I wish I could sneak into my old backyard this year to see how Magnolia Elizabeth is doing.  Did she bloom a little earlier in her open spot, between the kitchen window and the porch, where the sun was brightest in the early spring, before the trees along the fence line leafed in?  Or were her buds still perched along the skeleton of branches, waiting to spread their petals and fly away?

Maybe it’s not too late.

Magnolia More


I spent the day finding out how lucky I am.  Earth infused the breeze with the scent of living rain and grass.  Friendly hearts nodded as if I could not fail.  Nothing can stop the magnolias now, and never mind the the crab apples and lilacs wrestling and straining against their cocoons of dark becoming even as we sleep.
Thanks, Mom, for bringing me here.  I love you.

More Magnolia


Can I tell you the truth?
The picture is an after-thought.
I don’t think I even notice the focus half the time, and truthfully, I don’t think it’s important.
I just want to find a way to see the magnolia, so that I can find out
what shape it is making inside of me.

Pink in Black and White


the precarious root is latin for prayer –
obtained by entreaty
at the pleasure of another.

i fit my life inside this word
unwittingly suiting my description to
a term which
tells my tale so completely,
absorbs the yearning invocation,
relieves me of the burden
answered at last.