Iowa suffered a strange and difficult transition from winter to spring this year. The weather stayed topsy and turvy, warm one day, then cold and wet another. Ice coated the roads so many times my coworkers quit paying attention when I whined.
I took this picture of the budding magnolia in our front yard after an ice storm. I am an optimist, and even though the newspaper and everyone in the local foods community buzzed about the ice and its effect on the blossoms of local fruit trees, I believed it was just a matter of time before the magnolia would flower, its pinkish-white blooms bursting forth the way they had the year before.
There was a day when I arrived home from work and noticed small, grey capsules littering the walkway leading to the front porch. Clearly they had fallen from the tree, and I will admit to a passing thought that, perhaps, these were the buds, and that they had been frozen so hard they had withered, and dropped away. But I shook off that thought and proceeded inside, tumbling forward with my life, still certain I’d see blossoms sooner rather than later.
I know the tree blossomed the week before Easter in 2006. My mother, my godmother and another of their friends from college came to visit us for Palm Sunday weekend, and I remember the tree exploding into color just after my mother got back on the plane the following Wednesday. As Easter approached this year, I kept waiting for the flowers, the scent, the bruised petals that littered the sidewalk.
But Easter came and went, and April tumbled on, and there was no sign of bloom. I kept mentioning it as Steve and I came and went from the house, sometimes together, sometimes apart. “I don’t think it’s going to flower this year,” I said again and again.
Then, one day toward the end of April, I noticed the tree had sprouted tender, green leaves. They looked familiar. They looked like the leaves that come after the blossoms have dropped to the ground.
“It’s definitely not blooming,” I told Steve.
“Definitely not,” I said.
The magnolia tree broke my heart this year. All winter, I’d taken pictures of it — outside in the falling snow, through the blinds on a grey and heavy Sunday afternoon, when the ice sealed it to itself — with the certain knowledge that in a matter of months, the cycle would end, rewarding me with the beautiful blossoms I knew the tree was capable of producing.
I don’t remember making a decision to let go of the hope of flowers this year, but I know one day in May, I stopped wondering when the tree would bloom and embraced the understanding. The time for flowers had passed. It was time to move on, to let the tree be as it was, rather than what I hoped it would be.