The constant, fundamental, urge to look just above, just past what is within our grasp
| “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of a sea; and the way of a man with a maid.” -Proverbs 30: 18-20 KJV ~1~
Big leaf magnolia, it was a thing too far above her in all ways. Huge white flowers lit brightly in the moonlight, hours later shining orbs through the haze of cool early morning fog. When the most minute qualities of the forest could be studied simply by kneeling on the ground and looking closely. It was nearly preposterous that these flowers, up to a foot in span, remained so inaccessible, so resistant to even gross observation. It was a yearly aggravation. ~2~
Last year she had climbed to the top of a cliff and waked the ridge line deer trail in order to come level with one. It was more satisfying than looking at it from forty feet below, but still at least twelve feet of impassible space separated her from experiencing it in all the textual, osmic ways she longed to. She climbed further up along the ridge until she stood over another of the giant creamy white blossoms. It drooped languidly over and across the massive translucent leaves. Unconcerned as though it knew nothing could ever reach it. The big leaf magnolia remained a thing to itself, an untouchable mystery. ~3~
It looked like a wedding party had passed through the forest. It was like this every year, flowers strewn discarded throughout the forest floor. White and pink rhododendrons gathered in the outer turns of the creeks. Poised, geometric mountain laurel blooms scattered under the cliff lines from the mountainside above. Wild azaleas in pink and orange, delicate foam flowers along the cliff faces, sheets of paired, slender, white winter berry flowers draped over mounds of accumulated sediment and leaf mold . ~4~
The magnolias never dropped whole flowers. Their flowers fell petal by giant petal until finally the comb, the heart of the flower would fall and open up ever so slightly to reveal a hidden speckling of bright red seeds. ~5~
The cool, damp, ground gave gently beneath her bare feet. On the soft ground in the hollow she moved without sound, leaving only the slightest impression behind her in the decaying cast-offs from white oak, rhododendron, and hemlock. She lifted a single magnolia petal from the ground and examined it. The flowers never let go until they were well and truly spent. This was no exception. It was thick, in such sharp contrast to the fine, papery, see-through leaves. The edges had begun to rot and decay, curling in on themselves in patches of brown, black and yellow. ~6~
She cupped it in her hands and pressed her face to it trying to catch some hint of the unknown perfume it must surely have possessed. The petal was an untangleable blend of sweetness and rot, decaying wood and flesh, a dead thing. The thick musky smell was not unappealing, but it was not the smell of a flower, it was the smell of the loamy damp ground as it turned from tree and leaf to dark soil. The lofty, elusive flower had become terrestrial before it ever fell. Whatever secrets it had contained still guarded high above.