as long as i’ve been living with magnolia trees–since 1990 when i moved to hawaii and then to california–i never really paid any attention to their post floral display.
last thursday afternoon i’d driven to a nondescript office complex in the irvine spectrum (so nondescript that i drove right by it the first time) for a meeting. while i waited for my boss to arrive, i walked down a sidewalk lined with magnolia trees.
the underside of magnolia leaves have always made me think of bronze-colored velvet with a green glossy satin top and of course, what’s not to like about the magnolia blossom, i ask you. those dinner plate sized blooms (i had typed in an extra ‘o’ to bloom, which in a way seemed appropriate considering their size and pungent odor, but corrected it so you wouldn’t think i was blind to those little squiggly red lines that this platform’s spell check places under your every typo) have always charmed.
but these trees this past thursday were not in bloom and i turned my attention to the grassy median they were planted in and noticed this seed pod laying at the base of the trunk of one of the trees. i picked it up as one does when one has come across something so ancient-looking and carefully examined it. there seemed to be the entire floral history of the earth in this shamanistic (a rattle, a fetish, an archetypical symbol of the fecundity of our planet) written in its fuzzy handle, its exploded pods, its dark loamy color (caramel, chocolate, coffee).
i picked it up and felt its weight and admired its intricately carved handle and thought that its ‘petals’ reminded me of the stiff curls of a 18th century wig set atop of the delicate head of the queen of france, towering above her blue eyes and how her subjects (the nobles at least) would have oohed and aahed over the creativity of her perruquier.
it is fuzzy and smooth, soft and hard, sharp and dull; it smells like the past–a little dusty, musty, and old. the seeds (a dark, dull red) have all popped out of it, do birds eat them? are they dropped then in bird shit a mile from here with their potential dormant until one day they sprout and someone says “look here, a magnolia tree has sprung up in our yard, let’s let it grow here”?