Magnolia Tree

There is something arresting and unearthly about a magnolia tree in flower. Something that dances between divinity and dementia. A whirling dervish of a tree. Bursting with grace and an utter lack of restraint. See how it holds up its leafless branches. A candelabra, extravagantly ablaze with lunatic blossoms and zero sense of rationing or self-preservation. See how these flowers, some the size of your clenched fist, some the size of your whole hand, yawn open, with such unrestrained ardor it nearly turns them inside out. See how they do not bloom so much as detonate, in a series of soft explosions. See how like the fleshy tongues of dragons they are. These enormous creamy petals streaked with sunset shades. How their thick scent drugs the air. Drowns all thought in sweetness. An ancient tree architected for prehistoric times. Magnolias have bloomed on earth for 100 million years. Yes. These flowers opened above the heads of dinosaurs, long before humankind was a twinkle in the eye of the universe. And because they predate even the bees, their propagation across time and space was left to outsized beetles, who stricken with wanderlust stumbled across these velvety inner chambers. Kicked up a dusty cloud of pollen and unleashed a long chain of events that unfurled across the last Ice Age, and into the Stone Age and alongside the rise and fall of nameless tribes and civilizations, and the creation of the printing press, the steam engine, frothy cappuccinos and the birth of the internet, leading improbably to this very tree. Here. The one directly in front of me. The one my husband strolls under at the exact moment that a little lick of wind decides to kick up its heels. A handful of petals drift gently over him like a benediction. An origami instant that folds itself into my palm. Dear and delicate as a paper crane. Later I will look up what magnolia flowers symbolize. Nobility, beauty, dignity….Dignity…I think about the word. How it stands tall and runs deep and how much it has to do with integrity and how little with being — normal. I think about this outlandish tree that traces back to Time’s cradle, and its flowers that open alarmingly wide as if to swallow the sun, the way it gives itself madly to the moment. With radical generosity and no reservation. And what wouldn’t be possible — if we could learn to live like that.

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14 responses to “Magnolia Tree

  • mirandaelm

    Whoa! What a magnificent splurge of the most colorful , descriptive vocabulary . A thoroughly enjoyable read . I will never look at a magnolia in the same way again . Esther Miranda

    >

    • Pavithra K. Mehta

      Thank you Miranda! They bloom every year, but somehow this year seems like the first time I’m truly seeing the magnolias 🙂

  • Avriane

    A tree to humbly bow to, and to pay respect to. A species that teaches us, indeed, how to live. Thank you for awaking us to magnolia trees.

  • Geetha Mahadevan

    Lovely Piece ! I have a great fascination for trees, esp flowering trees ! Keep writing

  • Suzy Ryan

    A lovely tribute to an ancient species, Magnolia, from the perspective of an amazing writer.

    • Pavithra K. Mehta

      Thank you for the kind words Suzy. It blew me away to find out just how long magnolias have been here. We are such newcomers to this earth. With so much to learn!

  • Shruthi

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, and each piece has moved me, but none as much as this one. I felt my heart soar higher and higher with every sentence. Thank you.

    • Pavithra K. Mehta

      Thanks Shruthi! Lovely to discover your blog today and to learn that we are both book-loving, redwood-tree-adoring, South Indian transplants in this sunlit neck of the woods 🙂 Looking forward to staying in touch.

  • Vishoda Roy

    Your descriptive power is just as magnanimous as the Magnolia Tree. Thank you for bringing these and other forgotten treasures to life with such fluidity. You are remarkable and I am very appreciative of your gifted scripts.

  • Shruthi Athreyas

    Hi,
    I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime now. I am mesmerized by how you fill in so much of meaning and depth in such succinct narratives. Your writing always fills my heart with good feelings and I’ve come back to read some of your posts again and again to relish them. Your writing is an inspiration. Thank you 🙂

    • Pavithra K. Mehta

      Gladdens my heart to know that these little posts bring you joy Shruthi! Thanks for the kind words…sending good wishes your way 🙂

  • Bela

    Pavi whenever I read your poetry it makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland, who has stumbled down this curious hole, arriving into this world of wonder (despite my mind’s most stubborn effort to keep me locked up in the cycle of my mundane thoughts). Every line of your poems feels like the unraveling of something wonderful and beautiful and exciting, as I sit on the edge of my seat like a child waiting to see what’s written on the next page of her most favorite story. Your poetry awakens my heart.

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