Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Magnolia tree

As I sit writing, I often look out at the magnolia tree tree in our garden. Its lovely canopy of blossom is gone now. A few weeks ago, showers of thick pink and white petals fell like Brobdingnagian snowflakes onto the lawn, only to curl, turn brown and disappear in what seemed like a few days. Its leaves though, still have that fresh green colour of Spring, the colour you see in hedgerows at this time of year. Our magnolia seems old to my inexpert eye, with its divided trunk, winding branches and numerous old pruning scars.

We discovered only quite recently that magnolia trees are an ancient genus over twenty million years old, predating bees. Oddly enough this fact, this honourable badge of extreme longevity, adds to the attraction of our particular tree, common though they may be in local gardens.

I was distracted by the magnolia tree as I sat down to write this blog, initially intending to write something else, wanting to flesh out an idea I’d had while walking. I was soon diverted by the tree though, maybe because in a small way it is part of my life and as my eye falls on it I’m naturally reminded of other things. On sunny days we place table and chairs beneath it, sitting in its shade to chat, drink tea or share a slow bottle of wine.

These things, these habits and impressions, affect us in subtle and quite mysterious ways. We are not free to do or not to do. Not free to write about this or that just as we please. At least I’m not. Not when the sun comes out, scattering green and amber lights through the magnolia leaves, gently turning my mind to other things and other times, to a slow kaleidoscope of impressions, memories and distant thoughts.

We are not free to decide or intend. We never break free from this all-pervasive tangle of sights, sounds and flavours teasing their subtle way into our thoughts. And why should we wish things to be otherwise?

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