Daily Archives: May 23, 2022

magnolia story

I flew back east to a friend’s 70th birthday celebration . He’s a musician and some of his old friends from all around flew in for the party . Karl came from Switzerland , Doug from Arkansas , Dan ( that’s me ) from California .

The four of us found ourselves walking the day after arriving but before the party along a road in a cemetery in the town . It was a beautiful spot . We had to avoid a burial in progress , but that was easy , and we walked along telling jokes and commenting on the scenery . I don’t suppose that the deceased people minded. Had there been a park in the town we might have hung out there instead , but one does what one has to do when the best place to take a walk is the local graveyard .

We spotted a beautiful tree in bloom . The birthday boy said it looked like a magnolia . Doug said back in Arkansas they call it a tulip tree . Indeed , the blossoms looked like tulips . Doug said it’s not a magnolia , that there were magnolia’s back in Arkansas , but this wasn’t one . I pointed out that there are different varieties of magnolias , that I have one in my back yard and my neighbor has a very different variety of magnolia in his front yard . Karl , the Swiss guy , took out his phone , keyed in an app that identifies trees , took a picture of the tree , and said that it was a tulip magnolia .

Tulip magnolia . Problem solved . End of story . You think ? No.

No , Doug said , it’s a tulip tree . Magnolia is something different . Back in Arkansas they call it a tulip tree . His friend he said , a heart surgeon , is also an amateur botanist . His friend the heart surgeon-botanist said it’s a tulip tree .

Karl read the info on his phone one more time : tulip magnolia . Is there a problem here ? I pointed out that it could be a tulip tree and a type of magnolia at the very same time .

Doug went on for ten minutes or more about the tulip tree . Not a magnolia , anyway , he insisted . Magnolia’s are different . There are lots of tulip trees in Arkansas . Ask anyone from Arkansas , he said . Big white flowers . They know a tulip tree when they see one back home in Arkansas. .

Karl kept his steady smile throughout . He widened his eyes a couple of times when he looked at me , but he kept quiet . The birthday boy said it doesn’t matter anyway. Ah , but to Doug it did matter . Magnolias have big white flowers , he said . This was a tulip tree . His friend the heart surgeon and botanist could testify to it .

The tree in the cemetery ? It is what it is . We could talk about it until the sun went down but that wouldn’t change a thing . None of us really cared much what kind of a tree it was . It was a beautiful tree in bloom . Except Doug , I guess . He cared . I wasn’t quite sure what he needed to prove . I believed in Karl’s little internet answer .

Stop ! Stop ! You’re both right .

After Doug flew back to Arkansas I spent the next few days asking my friend the birthday boy and Karl if random trees around the place were magnolias or , possibly , tulip trees . Oh , don’t get me wrong . Doug is a nice guy , a successful radiologist who owns a beautiful home and also a horse ranch in Arkansas . He flew out to attend the birthday party for his old friend . He just got stuck on identification of that blooming tree and couldn’t let it go .

Hey , man, it doesn’t change anything whether or not the tree is a this or a that . At least we didn’t have a fistfight over it , and no one pulled a gun , and no one started a war or committed suicide over it . If something like that had happened , the poor guy being buried might have thought twice about his choice of burial places and the interred folks moldering there might have turned over in their graves .


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