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Thank God for magnolias

May 6, 2020

I’ve started to venture out a little more.

 

Not a lot more, though.

 

As much as anyone else, I have “corona fatigue.” So I slip out sometimes, wearing a mask and avoiding anyplace where large groups might be congregating. I feel compelled to spend time looking for something that might bring a little joy to these days that all run together.

 

My favorite coffee shop is open only for pickup, but they have some picnic tables out front, spaced far apart from one another. So I have begun to grab a coffee and sit out at a table – usually there is no one else within 20 feet. Directly in front of my spot is a beautiful magnolia tree, one of a line of them alongside the parking lot.

 

Honestly, I might not have noticed it except for the flowers. They always get my attention. I love seeing magnolia trees bloomed out, for as long as it lasts. For some time now, I have tended to gawk at and take photos of the first magnolia blossoms of the season.

 

In the arid part of North Texas where I grew up, there were not a lot of magnolia trees, that I recall. There were no magnolias in our yard or on our farm. There were thousands of mesquites, with which my Dad did constant battle.

 

My earliest memory of taking note of a magnolia was at my Uncle Acie’s house near Sulphur, Okla. He had a big tree, a thing of awesome beauty to me that overlooked his garden.

 

In the early 1990s, my wife and I went on a Civil War-related driving tour to Virginia. The magnolias I saw there, towering over the highways, made my uncle’s tree look like a houseplant. I didn’t know they made ‘em that big! But the best memory from that time is the wafting sweet smell of the magnolia flower. We toured a plantation home in which the caretakers had placed freshly cut magnolias blossoms throughout the house. It was intoxicating.

 

We have a miniature magnolia tree in one of our front flowerbeds. The other day, my wife cut a flower and placed in on the island in our kitchen.

 

When my favorite time of year comes around – the warm weather months – I instinctively begin looking for the magnolia blooms.

 

I do not have a green thumb. I know very little about plants and trees – except that I enjoy them.

 

I don’t know why I love the magnolia so much.

There is something about the beauty and intricacy of that flower, dressed like a new bride.

 

Perhaps it reminds of me of former times that were special and seemed simpler.

 

Perhaps it is part of a connection to my Southern ancestral ties, like sweet tea and barbecue. You cannot get good barbecue just anywhere, and you won’t find magnolias everywhere either!

 

Maybe it makes me picture my Uncle Acie wandering through his vastly oversized garden under that tree, vowing that “next year, NEXT YEAR, I’ll do more fishing and less gardening!”

 

Perhaps it is having to wait for the blooms to appear, wondering if it will ever happen. Then, you wake up one morning, and they have exploded. Maybe, in this time of seemingly endless watching and waiting, the magnolia flower is a reminder that God, in God’s own time, is doing something new. And it is beautiful.

 

Theologians such as John Calvin held that there were many witnesses to God, including the creation. The biblical writers looked at the life of trees and wrote of faithfulness. One of my favorite passages is Psalm 1:1-3, which says that those who meditate and take joy in the Law of the Lord “are like a tree planted by streams of water.”

 

There are plenty of other trees that could symbolize faith, or the beauty and creativity of God – the tall pine or the sturdy oak, for example.

 

I turn to the magnolia.

 

I need a little joy these days.

 

I could use a little hopefulness.

 

Thank God, the blooms are out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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