I was raised in a suburb of Rochester, New York and there was a magnolia tree that I could see through a window behind our family’s desktop computer. In the spring, when jagged branches produced the white-pink buds that open up into seductive blossoms, I would spend considerably less time looking at blinking instant messaging alerts and significantly more looking out of that window. Sometimes, when I walked out by the blossoms during their week or weeks-long display, I would stop and place one delicious petal in between my thumb and forefinger, gently caressing its softness and then slowly pressing the residue left on my fingertip onto my forehead and into my cheeks. When the petals would fall to the earth, they would leave wet marks on the pavement below and shrivel up in the grass. Green leaves would remain until autumn winds tugged at them, leaving her branches naked and somber again. Her movements were not as perceptible in those months of winter, except when the weight of infinite snow crystals pulled her branches low. I would go to her again in that quiet season, our meditations sometimes accented by the song of a lone bird.
As I approach middle age, I feel now like that magnolia tree, in all her phases at once somehow. I am the taut bud and I am the wilting flower. I am the barren branch and I am the supple blossom. I am the water that populates her petals and the residue left by her decay. I am seductive to those who crave nectar and home to those who seek rest. I smell of the sweetnesses in bloom and of decomposition. I am vibrant in springtime glory and I am sober through long and dark nights.
I am the magnolia tree and I am the one who watches. I am the magnolia tree and I am the one who loves her.