So many of you have been kind enough to write or leave comments saying, “Are you okay? We haven’t heard from you in a while.” And the answer is a resounding yes. I’ve been working. And as my work is in many regards the same as what I do here at The Daily Cure — i.e. work with words and images — that I find it really hard to do both at the same time. The significant difference of course is that work requires creative intensity on a deadline. The key to this blog is the exact opposite: lazy time-out to meditate, write and photograph as inspiration strikes. The work project went well, but enough is enough. Even as it fills pockets, it also scars and exhausts. I’ve missed this. I’ve needed this. And now I’m back, a happier, more relaxed woman.
Relaxation isn’t, at least for me, an immediately achieved state. It’s something that has to creep up on me, soak in, wiggle its way between tense muscles and over-stimulated brain cells. The day after my freelance project was finished, I still felt tightly coiled, unable to connect directly and easily with those things that usually give me instant joy. But the thing that did it, that broke through, was a magnolia wet with rain in an otherwise, grey urban setting.
My daughter plucked an enormous past-its-prime bloom from a low branch for me, and I snapped it with my humid telephone, eager to capture and keep that flower that represents the American South, my home, for me. (The photo is not worth reproducing here; it does the flower no justice at all.) I’ve always loved Magnolias with their strong, structural beauty. Their heady perfume. Their deeply colored leaves (waxy green on one side, velvety brown on the other). And their unique evolution into pods bejeweled with with lovely red seeds.
But perhaps what I love even more than perfect flowers, are wilting flowers. Flowers in decline. Leaves furling toward a dry, rigid, infinite sleep. Whites turning first to cream, then ivory, then beige, then brown. I’ve kept the Magnolia flower for two days now, watching it lose the remnants of life, while I’ve regained mine. It has lost its waxy white brilliance and become, in its place, something equally magnificent. Perhaps this is, in the end, a fitting metaphor for my memory of my own past. It is fitting to let the past wilt, to let it mutate from something urgently beguiling to something that requires no more from you than observation, appreciation, and the desire to fill your lungs, every now and then, with its fading perfume.