Tag Archives: leaves

A Love Letter to My Magnolia, by Carole Howard

Back in P.S. 106, in the Bronx, I learned that the magnolia is the only tree that gets its flowers before its leaves. I think it was Mrs. Sills who taught us that little nugget in 3rd grade, though I can’t be sure. It’s amazing that I remember it at all.  But there’s another reason that magnolias are special — to me, at any rate.

In 1984, my husband Geoffrey was in the hospital for a month. His illness wasn’t life-threatening, but it did require time to kill all the little beasties that had taken up residence. (Remnants of his long-ago days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, perhaps.)

While he was the sick one, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for me, either, as anyone who’s ever been a caregiver knows. I went to the hospital every day with magazines, treats and moral support, and with whatever good cheer and/or firmness was necessary to run interference with doctors and nurses.

“I’m here, I’ll shave him, you don’t have to do it.”

“I absolutely insist the tropical disease specialist include Geoffrey on his rounds. Today!”

“Would you like some of the cookies I brought in today?”

I also cared for our daughter and kept our consulting practice alive. I would have done anything to help Geoffrey get better; I didn’t mind any of it. But I was weary.

The day before Mother’s Day, I was feeling rather low, maybe even a bit sorry for myself.   I’m not proud of that, but there it is. I went to my friend Barbara’s plant nursery to buy myself a present. Walking into the greenhouse, with its powerful smell of earth, fertility, and growth, was the beginning of the cure for what ailed me. I walked around and looked at every plant until I saw a perfectly-shaped magnolia. I knew it was the one for me and my mood lifted as I took it to the register.

But Barbara said it had already been sold – “See that ribbon around the pot?” – and I should pick out something else. I cajoled and groveled. I tried to cash in on our friendship. I really wanted that magnolia. No dice. I didn’t see anything I liked nearly as much, so went home empty-handed and petulant.

The next day, Mother’s Day, the nursery truck pulled up to my door with a delivery. The driver went into the back of the truck to find it, and I felt a kind of pre-gratitude. I gave myself a peptalk: “Ok, it’s not the magnolia, but it’s so nice to have been thought of.”

When he emerged, I was overjoyed: It was MY magnolia. It turns out that Geoffrey, the day before my visit to the greenhouse, had called Barbara from the hospital and asked her to “pick out the nicest thing in the place for Carole.” And, amazingly, Barbara had picked out MY magnolia before I did. When I came shopping and picked out the same one, she knew. All the time I was cajoling and groveling, she must have been smiling inside, maybe even thinking of The Gift of the Magi. This story still gives me chills.

This year, the magnolia bloomed very late. But I knew it eventually would, as it has for the past 30 years. Its tender-pink flowers are as glorious as a burst of fireworks. To me, they are fireworks: joyous, boisterous, celebratory.

magnolia copy

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Carole Howard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State.  She is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.

 

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The Alligator or The Leaves? What Are You Focusing On? by Sherrie Hansen

We recently returned from a mid-winter’s vacation to sunny Florida. I can’t tell you how fun it was to see water that was unfrozen, grass that was green, and flowers that were blooming after living in an all-white tundra for the past three months.

While we were there, we made a trip to the Everglades, which was described by our tour guide as a microcosm of life on earth. If all is well in the Everglades, all is evidently well on earth. Walking among the alligators and seeing hundreds of water birds living in the shallow swamp that is the Everglades did inspire many allegories in my mind, and my husband’s. So for my blog today, I’m borrowing a page from my husband’s sermon (he’s a pastor). He used my photos in his power point earlier today; I’m using his idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this picture, the focus is on the leaves. They’re pretty, they’re green, they’re alive, they’re good, but as you can see in the second photo, they’re not what’s really important in this picture!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So often in life, we focus on the little things, to the detriment of what’s really important. As Christians, we may focus on squabbling denominations, political and religious issues, rites and rituals, and forget about what’s really important – grace, forgiveness, atonement, serving a Savior sent to die for our sins.   As people, we may focus on Facebook, checking our email, fixing dinner, getting our errands done and our bills paid and doing a million other things that may be good and well in their own right, but are distractions nonetheless. As writers, we may focus on promotions, classes, conferences, sales statistics, and current industry trends, and forget to write the best book we know how to write.

In today’s lesson at church, the Apostle Paul was so busy focusing on what he thought was important – sticking with the program, defending his religion against the new Christian zealots who claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, trying to keep things the way they’d always been – that he almost failed to see the alligator looming front and center, refusing to be ignored.

What are the leaves in your own life? What’s keeping you from seeing the alligator? If we open our eyes and look past the leaves that are cluttering our view and distracting us from seeing the bigger picture, we will be able to focus on what’s really important.

 

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