I am trying to love the magnolia tree outside my living room window. After all, I have been staring at it for four and a half years now and it’s a tree, right? It’s a living thing. Why hate a living thing? The word “magnolia” is so beautiful. The movie, Magnolia, it was a great movie. But I really can’t see the point of it. The tree I mean.
For one or two weeks a year, it flowers. Big, droopy, decadent flowers. I hear there’s a scent but I haven’t noticed.
Then the flower petals die and drop and it’s just green and leafy until October when the leaves start to turn brown.
Oh but first, in September, it bears this really freaky red fruit. Then the fruit drops all over the place and makes a huge mess.
I was thinking maybe I am uncomfortable with this circle of life pressing up against my window. The reminder that we all will wither and die. That decay is unpleasant. That the bearing of fruit is messy. Do I hate it because it is reminding me that it will bloom again but when I die, I will be gone forever?
Let me go back to the fruit it bears. They are berries, the size of a giant blackberry but the colour of tomato soup. Their skins are bumpy and prickly. The innards are yellowish-brown and texturally very like the inside of a fig, which I also think are disgusting, albeit tasty. A lot of the houses in our townhouse complex have magnolia trees outside them, so walking around during September can get kind of messy. The berries squish easily. Last year I had to convince Fresco not to eat them, this year he was scared of them. “Don’t make me walk on the squishy berries!”
Aside from the regular berries, some of the trees produce super-sized fruit. One of the bigger trees produced a fruit last year that was the size of my hand. It was red and prickly and so, so disturbing, in a sort of “is it more phallic or more tumour-like? Who cares; neither of those things is what I want to see on a tree!” sort of way.
Anyway, after the berries drop, the leaves (all one million of them – the trees are very leafy) turn brown and then they sit there. Being brown. Good morning, there is brown. Oh Hi, this is The Colour of Death at your window. And then, sometime in November, there is a wind storm and then some rain and the tree bends and bows and I think “This is the year it breaks!” but it doesn’t break. It is very flexible. The wind blows some of the leaves down and then there is some snow and frost and that takes care of some more leaves and eventually, by December, I am only looking at bare branches and, through them, the forest of evergreens that divides us from the busy road beyond.
Even as the last of the brown leaves are dropping, the buds for next year’s flowers are already visible. Fuzzy nubs point up at the cold sky. I see one strange fruit, either last year’s or next year’s, blushing red now that there are no more leaves around it.
It doesn’t take any crap, this tree. That’s for sure. And it’s always busy.
Perhaps this is the year I grudgingly admire its qualities and by next year I will be ready to give it a hug that doesn’t involve kitchen scissors.