Monday, March 26, 2007

The Sweet Scent of Magnolia Blossoms

The saucer magnolia next to my house has started to bloom. Whereas some of the other saucer magnolias in Leavenworth are in full bloom, the one in my yard, which is shaded during part of the day, has some unopened buds, still. When I was a graduate student at Kansas State, an Asian international student asked me to identify the saucer magnolia in bloom next to Eisenhower Hall. I had no idea what it was.

Every Tuesday and Thursday that semester I was sitting in Ben Nyberg’s fiction workshop, with my back to the window that opened onto this magnolia. The undergraduates that semester were putting their childhood fears into fiction; one of the stories described an elderly woman living in a concrete house with concrete furniture, including a concrete bed, so that the creature under the bed wouldn’t get her. It got her anyhow in the last sentence, as I recall. It took me a while that semester to begin writing stories. I hadn’t written fiction since junior high. My first one addressed nine months in twenty-two pages. My next two addressed an interior conflict in fewer pages, the last one addressing the sexual tension between a married woman and the visitor who was spending a few days with her and her family. It was an adulterous liaison that could have been and one the main character regretted not having once he said his goodbyes.

The Bradford pear trees in bloom have made downtown Leavenworth particularly picturesque. Last weekend, during the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the overcast sky and temperatures in the 40’s made the day seem a bit Irish, minus the requisite shower. These trees bloomed just a few days later, surprising me at least.

Northeastern Kansas and western Missouri are particularly pretty in the spring. The redbud trees will be in bloom next. I haven’t yet been able to identify the bushes ablaze with yellow blossoms. I keep asking myself why I haven’t planted any of these bushes in my yard.