We returned home to the initial shock. Then came that terrible sinking feeling of something being lost that can never be replaced.
I should probably begin with the magic of the Magnolia- the way it breaks out into the most beautiful, ample blooms. So full, yet so fleeting. They capture our attention, because we know we will only get to enjoy their silky pink petals for so long, before they begin falling to the ground and become soft beneath our bare feet. The branches are lonely from what they’ve lost, but only for so long. Then they become abundant with the most lush green leaves. Like an umbrella, they cover, barely allowing light to leak through. The ground grows cool beneath their shade. Later in the summer, we will be so lucky if the flowers reappear, more scattered this time. It’s the mystery of the Magnolia: a second bloom, as if the tree is fighting for our attention one last time before autumn lures it to sleep.
That same weekend, I was hanging laundry when it called me under its shelter, as if it could feel its own fate. I stood in its shadows, looking up into the glimmering canopy of dark green leaves. I admired its beauty and for a moment, I had the urge to climb its trunk and crawl into its branches. But then I remembered that I am no longer a child and I returned to wet jeans and clothespins.
Now I wish I had stood there a little longer.
We went out of town that weekend, so when we pulled into the driveway to find half our Magnolia cut down and left lying, that terrible sinking feeling began.
It’s just that we both really loved this tree.
We only lived with it for two years, but we gained a deep appreciation for the way it changed, marking each season, bringing in spring with its gorgeous buds, radiating energy throughout our summers. Providing privacy. Shade. Wonder.
If we were so touched by the essence of the Magnolia in such a short amount of time, how then must the owner of our house feel? Her grandfather planted this tree – a tree that had spanned her lifetime, creating memories relived by the very sight of it. Gone in an instant.
The thing is, a tree is not just a tree, even if someone may see it as such. A tree can hold our history, our memories, our childhood. We live and breathe and grow with the trees in our yards. So it’s not too surprising that the loss of our Magnolia actually brought us to tears; actually moved us to feel profound anger and sadness; actually caused us to stand at its trunk, picking through branches, imagining it as it used to be, as if we could magically put it back together again. The fact is, we are connected to trees. The way they evolve becomes the rhythm of changing seasons, a thread through our days. Their silent presence becomes a constant in our lives.
But like most things we take for granted, maybe we only realize all of this after they are gone.