Sunday, April 19, 2015

Magnolia petals falling reflect the ephemeral nature of beauty and life

During my first year at UBC -- eons ago now -- I stayed in the women's residence at Totem Park.

It was the sixties and things were in flux. I took Arts I, an experimental program that was just launching, and so avoided the huge lecture style first year classes.

I was also fortunate to be able to sign up for a French class that was held in the lounge of my residence. This was all the more advantageous because this was an 8:30, so I usually had time for breakfast or at least coffee before heading to class.

Besides the terror that I would fail it because I couldn't understand the native speaker teacher from Paris, I retain few memories of that course.

What I do remember is a scene from a French version of the play Antigone, in which two characters sit beneath a tree with magnolia petals falling on their shoulders. At the time, the image of magnolias was as mysterious to me as that of Sophocles himself. A green girl from the northern part of BC, I had never seen a magnolia, and wouldn't discover these delightful trees until the following spring. Yet that image of ephemeral beauty entered my consciousness then, and has remained with me.

These magnolia petals dropped in front of Summerland Waterfront Resort and Spa on Okanagan Lake. If I stand and step close to the window of my writing room, I can see similar purple petals that have dropped from the magnolia in our front garden.

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