I was thinking about friends that have inspired me… and it brought me to the Magnolia tree. Friends appear in the most unlikely places sometimes we don’t notice them because they are very quiet and just offer support and their presence. Years later we notice our growth has intertwined…

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

Albert Einstein

The Magnolia tree in the front garden overwhelms the senses. Lush, thick green leaves and heavy waxy blooms the size of dinner plates make me dream of the tropics and slow moving rivers…the air is heavy with the scent of magnolia blossoms…it isn’t supposed to thrive this far north. Mislabeled it arrived at the garden shop by accident. It was scrawny with curling brown leaves…it bore a yellow clearance tag.  I lovingly planted it, the first tree in my then barren new yard.

 It was supposed to be a dwarf Magnolia, hardy in the north to minus 10 degrees. It was small and lonely, by itself in the front garden. It arrived during a drought and I watered it every morning for years.

 I stood in my bare front yard with the sparse new grass and watered that little tree while I drank coffee and wished for the giant evergreen trees of the Pacific Northwest I left behind, or for the beautiful forests of the Great Smoky Mountains where I grew up. I missed my friends and family.  My Magnolia tree and I were both transplants, neither of us fit in and we were both in the wrong place. It took years to bloom…

Adopt the Pace of Nature: her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The mislabeled little tree is in reality a Grandiflora Southern Magnolia. It is a sight to behold…

when fully grown it will reach 80 feet, its branches will have a 50-foot spread. Even now it dwarfs the house, beautiful green leaves fill the view from the front windows all year…making it seem that a tropical day awaits you if you’ll just step outside and join it in the middle of January.

 Every winter I bite my nails -will the Magnolia make it through? It braves the winter winds and biting frosts. Heavy snow bends limbs until they touch the ground. Undaunted, they bounce back.

One year during an ice storm it lost several branches the size of small trees -but a tree surgeon repaired the damage and you’d hardly even know it now. The year before I lost part of my face to cancer…

Magnolias appear in much of my work I drift back to their imagery again and again. I didn’t realize when I planted the little tree that it would grow tall enough to capture the moon in its branches.

The moon began to appear more and more as a thread running through my work.

“Moon Flowers” Glass panel by Deborah Johnson

The Magnolia is no longer alone, its magnificent branches touch the other trees that seemed so far away when it was planted.

My grandchildren climb the Magnolia tree now. Their laughter rings through the branches and their lovely faces echo the shape of the magnolia petals…

“Becoming Magnolias” Glass Powder drawing on Glass, by Deborah Johnson

In the end beautiful ones, we are all of us a sight to behold…

Deborah Johnson