The Magnolia tree in our front yard lets her petals go. One by one.
Like words in a poem, separately they mean a little bit of something, but read all together, they mean everything. The effect when the tree is in full bloom is like a Degas with his flurry of ballerinas dancing, all pink tutus and graceful arms. The petals scatter wordlessly over the driveway as they fall. They are slips. Wisps. White petals with a brush of fuschia down the center. Sometimes there’s the skeleton of a leaf that looks like brown lace hidden under the small rocks around the base of the tree.
The petals are an OCD sufferer’s nightmare.
Every year, every spring, I rake the petals up. Sometimes I rake them up several times a week. This year is no different. It’s a remarkable tree and we take care of it lovingly because it’s remarkable in its beauty. Even when it is completely devoid of leaves and petals in the winter, it’s beautiful.
And then I wonder how it is that we are sometimes more considerate of those things that are beautiful than those things that are not. I have no qualms about complaining about the Sambuca Negra that shoots up rebelliously near our front door and I will hack away at it when it becomes undisciplined and unruly during its growth spurt (I just heard horrified gasps from the botanists in the group. Not to worry, I haven’t killed it yet.)
Anyway, while raking the petals today in my labour of love, I bent over to pick up a twig and a pain shot through my mouth. I’m due for a root canal (ug) and have been having much pain for the last couple days. This, for some reason, made me think of Avril Lavigne. It sounds strange, I know.
We’d just seen a story about her on Entertainment Tonight (Oh, I’m not actually admitting to watching the show, it’s just that there was nothing else on and I was procrastinating doing the dishes or taking out the garbage or something else less appealing). They were talking about her bout with Lyme Disease and were saying that Avril’s fans are all like #GetWellSoonAvril, #Prayfor Avril,” so I guess it made me wish that someone would hashtag me (#PrayforLarissa’sTooth?). And, truth be told, I was feeling a little sorry for myself and my aching molar, and well, that also then got me to thinking about the nature of beauty probably because of all those pictures of Avril floating around and also being that I came to find myself standing under a magnificent tree with a pile of silky petals at my feet.
(Is it just me, or does Avril’s skin seems to be the same silky colour and texture as a Magnolia petal?)
You know, there are some truly beautiful women in this world. Hollywood capitalizes on their beauty. The tabloids make the most of it, but then single-handedly shoot them down by publishing “What the stars look like without make up on” or “Whose cellulite is this?”. We still gravitate towards the beautiful though, despite these intimate revelations from the intrusive paparazzi. Sometimes we even hate ourselves because maybe we’re not what Hollywood considers “Hot.” We buy beauty products trying to be young, trying to stay young. But as Jacqueline Bisset (God bless ‘er) said “Character contributes to beauty. It fortifies a woman as her youth fades. A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude, and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful.” We need to hold to that.
Look at the Magnolia tree. The older it gets, the more regal. Its wrinkled bark is a testimony to its age. Its character. We love it because of its strength. Because year after year it does what comes naturally. Beautifully.
It is what it is.
Nothing more. And it is not expected to be anything more than it is. So, why do we do that to ourselves?
Well, the wind came up while I was writing and now the petals that had been left on the tree are scattered all over the road for the cars to drive through (or for me to rake up again!).
Avril, I wish you a speedy recovery, and well, I took an Advil to ease my own pain. Two more weeks ’til the root canal. “Fortitude,” right Jacqueline?