I’ve learned something special about magnolias:
On a trip to the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, I visited the magnolia groves of the UW Botanic Gardens. While I stopped to admire the flowers and take pictures, I leaned over to read the information signs.
It turns out that flowers of the magnolia family are thought to be around 100 million years old. 100 million years.
Magnolias evolved and thrived so long ago that they bloomed at the feet of dinosaurs.
They’re so ancient in their evolution that they evolved before there were even bees to pollinate them. So they’re believed to have been pollinated by beetles.
The wild petals of magnolia, so curiously stiff and sturdy, evolved that way to be strong enough to hold the weight of their ancient beetle pollinators.
This blew my mind.
I looked deeply at the flowers. 100 million-year-old beings, yet we can still touch, and smell, and see them with our modern Homo sapiens equipment. We Homo sapiens who evolved 200-300K years ago, and developed language only 50K years ago. We likely had conversations with magnolias before we had words to speak.
Gazing at these ancient companions, I wonder…what wisdom do they ferry into the present day from 100 million years ago? What gifts from the past can they offer us? Who were we, and what did we know, when we knew them best?
Grandmother magnolia, what can you teach us about ancient ways of knowing and being, about our place in the long arc of time?
Maybe you can teach us some perspective about what’s important in life, and how to protect what’s sacred, and what’s ancient. I think you know better than we.
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