I’m worried about the future again, which you told me is where the root of anxiety lives. I’d rather live in a tree instead of a few paces ahead. Buddha had his Bodhi, I have my broadleaf evergreens. Magnolias are older than bees, which tells me that they can save us all if the bees die and all that are left are hard-shelled wasps and beetles. Before the bees manifested, it was the beetles who made the magnolias bloom, but I don’t know if they smelled as cloyingly sweet or were so paper-white.
Mark Catesby – Magnolia, 1731
I’m sorry that I only come here when I’m worried, or after I’ve made a mistake. Most of my mistakes are internal, never voiced, never acted upon, only memorized and repeated. The need to be happy, to be still, to be settled…this is what presses on my chest. There are dozens of birds outside our window, small and brown, carrying off materials to make nests. The robins left but the finches are here. Their nests are less conspicuous, small, unobtrusive. Hundreds of eggs, blue and white, crunch underfoot. I’m writing to make myself feel better now, giving over to images that are comforting and calming. A walk across campus, heavy with humidity and magnolia, the very heat and smell that we lacked when we were north. Back then my bodhi was a birch, millions of them, actually. Their uniformity and chalky white bark was like a hum, a mantra, a lullaby. Here the trees are as different as my emotions and decisions. It’s complicated enough here, in this temperate rain forest, to stay forever. But don’t think I won’t run to the tundra again, if it asks me. Under this canopy of magnolias, dogwood, willow, and tulip poplar is where I hide. But I don’t think I can hide forever.