Saturday, March 17, 2012

Early Magnolia

We returned to Kansas City after dark on Monday. After a brief sojourn to the Florida panhandle I was shocked to discover that spring had arrived. In the dim glow of street lights I discerned--flowers in the trees. The Bradford Pear. And the magnolias.
Magnolias are perhaps my favorite trees. Magnolias of all kinds, though different strains of appeal to different parts of my soul. My summer soul loves the dark, rich rooms of the southern evergreen magnolia, with their heavy atmosphere and the regal stillness of their white petals.
But my spring soul, my joyful-after-midwest-winter soul loves the tulip magnolia.
When I was an undergraduate in Chicago there were two venerable specimens outside of the English department windows. They always seemed to be in full, exuberant bloom during finals week when I was surviving (or not) off ramen noodles and no sleep. As I wandered around campus with my Norton Anthology of Whatnot, mumbling Shakespeare or Spenser or Milton and trying to wrap my dim mind around Courtly Love or Incarnational language--there were the magnolias: quiet, lovely, untroubled by term papers or post-structural theory.
The magnolias--so brief. They hardly last a week in the best years. This year, so hot, was not the best year. The magnolias opened early and are dropping early. I saw them open for the first time in the darkness three days ago, and already the petals pool under the branches, turn brown when crushed.
The magnolias--so brief. I almost didn't want to look at them. Surely it would be easier to ignore their beauty, then I wouldn't suffer the loss of the beauty. I feel this way about so many things: babies, rain storms. Too difficult to stop and watch the beautiful thing. To difficult to see it.
"Humankind cannot bear too much reality," said T.S. Elliot. But what people don't understand, is that he wasn't talking about the suffering of children, natural disasters. He was talking about beauty. We cannot bear it.

Or George Eliot: "If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence." We cannot bear it.
Watching the magnolias this spring reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago. It's really about the southern magnolia, but perhaps appropriate here as well.

My Magnolia

White within the shadow tree,

you open whole into a cool room,

your windows widen from the bud.

Magnolia, you never break—

no shards. Your pane will melt

like rain upon the autumn yard.

Magnolia, you never cry, your eyes open dry.

Your mouth is mute without a tongue

while choirs of mockingbirds lament.

Magnolia, you never sing,

your music is the odor,

oil between the branches.

Magnolia, you never stain, your pain

is only shadow turning blue.

Your skin will never tear.

My magnolia, the lips that hold you

only loosen

and let go.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Yesterday our new sofa was delivered. Our *custom* Lee Industries English Roll Arm sofa has put all our other furniture to shame. So lovely, so well built, so...comfortable.
This is our first "grown-up" purchase to date (excluding, of course, our gorgeous antique (i.e. reeediculously expensive) Chinese buffet which we bought while we were broke in graduate school. And that wasn't what I would define as a "grown-up" decision.

Besides the Chinese buffet most of our furniture has consisted of 1. Ikea things inherited from Devin's dorm room, 2. Decent though dated things inherited from grandmothers and aunts, and 3. free or basically free stuff from roadsides, Craigslist, flea-markets or old chicken-coops (i.e. the coffee table pictured above. It was in some guys barn covered in chicken...youknow. Needless to say, he didn't charge us to haul it away.)

We had the loveseat (another fleamarket find) recovered, and it doesn't look so bad.

The problem with custom is that it is fosters a spirit of discontent. Everything else in the house looks a little bit shabbier next to the new *custom* couch (I mean you cheapo jute rug!! oh--and baby toys, yes.)

The only thing in the room that outshines the sofa is my own little darling piece of Custom Work:

Harriet reeeealy wanted to look at the "babies" on the little screen on the back of the camera. Because, you know, that's what cameras are for (taking pictures of babies. Not sofas. Duh, mom).
"Bayy bees!! ?"
"Baaaayyyy Beeees!!"
She so doesn't care about custom furniture. Who knew?"

First Friday

First Fridays are important in our family. The first Friday of the month is, as you know, set aside as a day of special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I have, at some points in history attended First Fridays adoration and Mass. Small children I could name have made this practice a bit more challenging, but this past Friday I was able to attend Mass with Miss Hattie in tow. Hattie amused herself by reorganizing the hymnals and I was able to grab a quiet moment, for which I am so thankful.

But First Fridays are important to Thomas More and Myself for other, secular reasons as well. Namely: Good JuJu and the vintage markets in the West Bottoms, which are only open on the first weekend of every month. I usually go down on Friday morning with my lovely friend Anna, but since she now resides in Our Nation's Capital I have been lacking a shopping buddy.

This month I headed down with some Bible Study friends and my husband, who took some time out of his busy schedule to hang with the ladies.

A view of the warehouse.
Thomas More and Harriet trying out a Bentwood cafe chair.

Chandelier sideways.
Bridge at sunset. After shopping we ate at a delicious vegan restaurant off Summit.

I liked their stripy wall.

And their metalic gold wall. I entertained Hattie by taking pictures of her and showing her the results on the little screen on the back of the camera.

This is probably the least flattering picture I have ever seen of either of us.

Friday, March 2, 2012