Another way I know I'm over the top is when I forget to pause, even for five minutes, and appreciate the beauty of my surrounding. This is especially true this week as spring has arrived here in the Bay Area and many of the fruit trees and magnolias are in bloom. I park my car on almost any given street, get out and am immediately flooded by the scent of cherry blossoms. Usually I'm late for an appointment, so what do I do? Rush into the building or stop, even for 15 seconds, and drink in this fleeting, achingly beautiful experience?
I try, as much as possible, to choose the latter. It can sometimes feel like trying to stop a speeding train, so I do stop, physically stop, right there in my tracks. I take a few deep breaths and try to tune into the physicality of my experience. Get out of my head, find my feet and notice my surroundings. What is there to appreciate here?This morning I happened to park next to a huge magnolia tree, fully in bloom. So I spent a few minutes in its presence, noticing the subtle shades of white and pink in the blossoms, listening to the sound of the petals as they fell to the ground. I remembered a story an old friend told me about when he was a little boy, five years old, and his first encounter with a magnolia tree in full bloom. He was so entranced and taken with it that he ate one of the blossoms!
I assume that eating an entire magnolia blossom can be quite overwhelming and unpalatable, but in that moment I understood a child's instinct to fully take in, to swallow up, such overwhelming beauty. So, rather impulsively, I decided to try it. I reached up, clicked off a petal and took a tiny nibble. (Magnolia blossoms aren't toxic.) . First I tasted the not horrible but not very pleasant perfume of the blossoms, then a very nice citrus note, followed by a mild bitterness. Interesting. I took another little bite and wandered down the street, not sure if I liked it or not but happy that I had given it a try.
I spent the rest of the morning dreaming about magnolia blossom salads and pancakes. There's probably some potential here but even if I don't end up with an exciting new recipe, I am already well-fed by my tiny nibbles of the magnolia blossom. I am already refreshed by stopping in the middle of a hurried morning and remembering what it's like to be a five year old in the throes of wonder and abandon.
So there it is, my recommendation for a day (or a life or a moment) well-lived: stop as often as possible, notice and appreciate, be curious, be courageous, and taste, with wonder and abandon, as much as you possibly can.
PS It turns out that the blossoms of the Magnolia grandiflora are edible but better when pickled, albeit with mixed results. I might just give this one a try.
Around This TIme Last Year: Weekend Meditation: Timelessness
(Images: Dana Velden)