The Beatitudes of Forcing Magnolias

Blessed be the magnolia tree
for her sacrifice
three branches from Winter’s icy heart

Blessed be their wooly buds
stolen to befriend
sprigs of evergreen

Blessed be the thief
her trespass forgiven
blooms upon her table

Pink blossoms on long thin branches caught my eye the instant I entered Elaine’s house. “How beautiful!”
The scent drew me close. Peach, I guessed, the same wine colored stems as my peach tree, although a paler pink bloom.
          “From Trader Joe’s,” Elaine said. “I couldn’t resist.”
One of her strengths. She bought three bunches—two to share, one to keep.
The stems splayed open from a sparkling glass jar upon her countertop. Elaine delights in designing flower arrangements. Our Monday night writing group is one of her many beneficiaries.
I placed my covered cake plate near the stems. “To celebrate my birthday,” I said and lifted the lid. “Aunt Alma’s Leigh’s famous prune cake drenched with caramel sauce.”
Elaine’s blue eyes lit up. As many women, we can’t resist sweets, either.
“First time I’ve made it, so hope it’s good.”
Her flowering stems elicited “Beautiful!” from each writer when they set their dish amongst the others—a potluck feast for body and soul.
At our meeting’s end, I left our hostess a hefty slice of my aunt’s specialty. Without my notice, Elaine slipped her bundle of branches into their cellophane cone.
“For your birthday,” she said.
Her countertop looked forlorn. I felt reluctant to accept.
She smiled. “I’ll buy more.”
Spoken like a woman who hungers and thirsts after the friendship of flowers.
Afterward, I called Trader Joe’s to confirm the stems are indeed harvested from a peach tree. Enthused, the employee consulted their inventory.
“Almond, peach, and cherry stems,” Ken said.
“I believe my stems are peach because they’re pink.”
“Yes. The cherry blossom is white,” he said.
“Good. Thank you very much.”
Come Thursday, I’d suspected my birthday gift from Elaine wasn’t happy here. Partially opened, most petals withered on the wands. I regretted taking them from her home, as much a greenhouse as a residence, potted plants clustered before her many windows, including a lemon tree.
In consolation, I recalled cutting magnolia branches from my garden several Februarys ago. Starved for color, I had mixed evergreen sprigs with their buds, soft as pussy willows, for my kitchen table.
Several mornings later, to my joy and surprise, I found fuzzy shells hatching pink petals in a bath of sunshine. The fragrance caused a swoon.
Nature’s double blessing.
Seldom successful at forcing flowers to bloom indoors, I remembered Magnolia was no respecter of person. So out in the wind I went and harvested her offspring and a handful of juniper greens.
Arranged on my table as before, I hope Magnolia will do what comes naturally and repeat her forced performance.

Yet, dear Reader, my friend with two green thumbs comes to mind. I think Magnolia’s branches are not mine to keep.