Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 12:27:40 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: That Miserable, Magnificant Magnolia Tree

I was cooling off by the fish pond with a freshly brewed cup of coffee this morning. There is still a pinching nip in the air this pre-spring dawn. A bird somewhere in the branches was singing in a punctuated two-note repetitive group of fives what sounded like "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty."

As I was watching the soothing rhythmic ballet of the koi and listening to the hypnotic sounds of the water falls, my eyes drifted to the right back corner of the pond. There, not three feet from its edge, stands that miserable, magnificent towering magnolia tree. For some reason I started staring at it, admiringly wondering about it.

There is a huge story about that huge tree. When we first moved into the house nearly thirty years ago, the back yard was unkept, overrun by a myriad of what we call scrub oak saplings. In the middle was a three foot magnolia a sapling. I wanted to pull it our with the rest as I cleared a portion of the yard. Susan wouldn't let me. It was an omen of things to come. As the magnolia grew in height, so did my misery over it. It now stands a majestic thirty-five feet. It's branches cast a dark shady umbrella over the pond. Did I say "majestic?" Now, until recently, that is a word I never used when I looked at that tree. "Hateful" or "spiteful" would have been better words

This morning I thought of the many times over the years I cursed that tree, denounced it as a dirty tree because of the huge amounts of denuding and suffocating hand-size leaves it would drop in the autumn. Many was the time over the past twenty-five years I salivated at the thoughts of taking a chain saw to it only to find that it had my angelic Susan as its champion.

"It never blooms," I would scream as I struggled to unlock the chain she had used to tie herself to the tree's trunk. "It has never bloomed. It doesn't bloom. It will never bloom,"

"How do you know."

"Because I am the gardener around here!"

Next, I tried reason. "It needs sun, but it's too shaded by the pines and oaks." That didn't work.

"You won't touch it," she commanded as if I was some anti-environment logger about to clear cut an old growth forest.

When I built the pond, there defiantly stood that blasted tree. I could have sworn I heard it smirk as I received orders to dig around that it or not dig it out at all. "Don't," warned my beautiful Greenpeace watchdog, "'accidentally' cut any big roots and kill it." Do you know how much extra work that gave me, especially since I had to dig out the pond by hand?

Then, three years ago, it happened. It was a balmy spring morning after I built the pond and then had to build a "whatever" (I always forget what it's called) over it to protect the fish from being incessantly bombarded by the dark brown, crinkled missiles the tree threw into the pond. I was crossing the patio headed for a mediative chat with the fish in the pond. I looked up at that blight with a cursing sneer. I angrily thought that the tree, knowing it was protected, always spitefully thumbed its branches at me. At that moment I thought I saw something, a shape and color I had never seen. My eyes strained in the dim dawning lit. Darn if it there wasn't something there. No it couldn't be. But, it was. Hidden way high in the crown of the tree ONE secretive white flower peeked out from its green camouflage. I stared. At that moment, a dark blight became a beautiful light. I forgot my anger with that runaway from a landfill. I was so excited that I ran into the house. Tempting the fates and willing to brave inevitable tirade of invectives that would come, I woke my sleeping Susan, dragged her outside in her nightshirt, grabbed her reluctant head and pointed it skyward, and I pointed with a desperate and excited "don't you see it" gesture.

We both stood there not believing what we were seeing.

"I see it! Wow!!" Then, an I'm-going-to-get-even-for- all-the-aggravation--you-gave-over-this-tree impish smile appeared on her face. "See. I told you so." Oh, did she rub it in.

"I guess," making a sheepish stab at some defense, "it's soaking up the fertilizer I'm feeding the elephant ears, lillies, hosta, and ferns around the pond."

"All you had to do was feed it?? And you wanted to cut it down," little miss agriculturalist gleefully admonished me with an accenting wagging finger, "Oh, you of little faith. You had it set in your mind to cut the tree down and wouldn't see it any other way. So, there. Feed it!!"

"Yes, ma'am."

Well, to make a long story short, the next year the tree bore about fifteen blooms. Last year it had double that number. And, in my eyes that hateful, dirty hunk of wood is now a magnificent flowering thing of beauty.

Looking at that tree, now that I think about this morning, I see how it stands as a monument to a bunch of lessons. The more I think about it, the more insights and lessons I find about success, failure, attitude, change. Six or Seven quick ones will do for now. First, one positive dream is more powerful than an untold number of realities. Second, when I watch a tree, I can see either falling leaves or budding flowers. It's my choice. Third, there are secrets in silence and in activity. Fourth, a little difference can make a whole lot of difference. Fifth, don't become a hostage to past attitudes. Sixth, I made the mistake about that tree a friend and learned from it. And finally, there's nothing wrong or weak about changing your attitude and actions.

No different when we teachers are looking at a student, is it.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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