Today, the flowers kept turning out. But their purpose is now becoming more and more clear: they really are only the harbingers, only the first signs, not the things themselves. The leaves are pushing their way in. For my tulip magnolia, their pushing means that the petals were showering all day, even before the rain set in early tonight. I know, from past years, how short the lifespan of magnolia blooms is. And yet it's been a bit heart-aching to see how swiftly the overblowing has set in, how soon the rot--the petals cracking and browning even before they fall to the ground. Once they're on the ground, they get slippery and smell spoiled. And I know that the leaves are their own beauty, but I can't help rueing them just a bit. To watch flowers give way to leaves on tree after tree is to be staggered by the infinite repetition of short-lived loveliness.
Overnight, the dragon moved, and when I walked past his usual haunts this afternoon, I was more dismayed than seemed logical. I have known since December that his tenure in my (far) neighbor's yard is probably limited. And yet he has become such a fixture in that yard that I do not walk past his house without thinking that it is indeed his house or winking a greeting as I pass. I spent the rest of my walk to campus meditating on the all-campus e-mail I could send, demanding that someone return the dragon, even though neither the dragon nor the yard belongs to me. But on the way home, o frabjous day! callooh! callay! I chortled in my joy to see that he wasn't gone; he was merely hiding in a planter.
And this discovery, in turn, helped fortify me for more staring at my swiftly deflowering tree. (If you're wondering just how swift, please bear in mind that when I arrived home a week ago, the buds were just starting to emerge from their fuzzy winter shells. And so documenting the tree this week has become a way to track just how speedily some natural processes move.) See the leaves? They're curling out at the base of every single flower, and they're poking out of the ends even of the flowerless branches. By morning, between the push of leaves and the plash of rain, I expect that most of the petals will have come down.