Monday, July 2, 2012

...deserves a quiet night...


When I was a child, we had two mimosa trees. One dominated the front of the house, making the once dull yard with nothing but a waxy yew hedge seem somehow transformed.

The second stood sentry next to our three-foot swimming pool, lending it a tropical air with its fern-like leaves and fluffy pink flowers. On the rare occasion that I could swim alone, I was a mermaid. The flowers were birds, fluttering and hovering, perching on the leaves against the backdrop of the setting sun.

To me the trees were special. Exotic. Their multiple trunks arched like fountains with leaves making sprays of green. I'd never seen mimosas before and couldn't remember having ever seen them in anyone else's yard.

The trees didn't survive the winter of 1979.

Recently, I asked my mother where she got those mimosa trees. She said she hadn't thought of them in a long time. They were dug up as volunteer saplings along the Ohio River near the factory where my father worked. He brought them home and planted them sometime in the early 1970s. She asked my father to confirm this fact and he did.

Why did I want to know?

I was thinking about how things look at different times, in different places, I said. Perspective.

Here in Georgia, mimosas are invasive plants. They grow like weeds along highways, crowding out other plants, shoving forward, presenting, no - flaunting their flowers.

Exotic? Not at all. They're dead common. Flashy. Gauche. What seemed so unique to my young, Midwestern eyes is rendered nearly invisible by its ubiquity.

Until I stop and really notice them. Then I am transported. I'm a mermaid again, gliding through the warm water, breaking the surface into the cooling air, my dark hair slicked back. Now I'm a seal, glistening wet, my compact, young form all slick muscle, taut skin.

I glance up at the mimosa with its graceful arches and exotic pink flowers and push off the wall, smooth strokes taking me back across the small pool where the porch light reflects as diamonds on each ripple.

Has your perspective changed? What do you see with your new eyes?  What do you see with your old eyes?

21 comments:

  1. I keep missing my morning commute along the river---if I pay attention, it's gorgeous.

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    1. I know what you mean, Sarah W. When I pay attention, the beauty is apparent.

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  2. They're special up here on Cacapon Mountain, W.V. You see them in yards, but not running wild.
    ~

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    1. And I'll bet you notice them, don't you, Thunder?

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  3. When we lived in Vancouver, I couldn't stop looking at the mountains. So much of the landscape looked "fake" to me there....like a painting.

    Moving back to Ohio, I have more of an appreciation for rolling green hills (well, "hills"---pretty flat here).

    I also think about the colors of various places. The colors of Ohio are so different with each season---in the fall, it's rust, gray, green, and brown. And I even like the bland winter colors. In LA, everything was warm and bright and full of contrast---teal, black, bright green, tan, bright blue...

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    1. You're right about the color differences from place to place, Hannah. The Midwest colors are exactly as you said. Here there is more green and it lasts so much longer. I remember the first winter here when I saw a field planted with rye grass. It came up the most stunning green in February. I couldn't believe it. Nothing was that shade of green in February in Indiana or Chicago.

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  4. Oregon had a number of bushes that thrived where in Idaho and Michigan, my other two homes, are much more exotic (they need serious pampering for several winters before they can survive the freeze)--rhodedendrons are my favorite, but even hydrangia and azalea have trouble establishing themselves hee. In oregon there are rhodies as tall as houses. I love them.

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    1. Oh, Hart. I love rhodedendrons. We had some in Illinois. Down here, spring time means azaleas. There are some houses that I pass on my way to the office that are riots of color in the spring time.

      It's almost like an Azalea Assault!

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  5. My perspective seems to have changed 180 degrees on many things. What was so huge before is now minuscule. What was vitally important once, is no more. Like say, boys. I'm giving them up.

    Heh, that perspective will NEVER change.

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    1. Daggum it, Kimber. Boys. I love them, but ------

      I'm right there with you on the huge becoming minuscule. That's what perspective is good for in my case.

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  6. Answers: naw, n/a since I need new glasses, the same.

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  7. What am I seeing differently? Believe it or not, filing. Back when I was getting paid to do office work, I hated filing. Now I'm volunteering at a local historical society (one too small and poor to afford any professional staff) and am turning into an archivist. It's an odd feeling to find myself getting excited about sorting out thousands of misfiled and mislabeled documents.

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  8. Reading this, all I can think is how little I know about the most basic trees and shrubs. I know, literally, nothing. This is so sad ---- where was I when we were collecting and naming leaves in grade school?

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  9. Lisa, I think this might be one of my very favorite posts you've ever written. It's extremely powerful as it is simple. WOW.

    My perspective is constantly changing, and for that I am thankful.

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  10. Mimosas sound lovely, I am unfamiliar with them. I love the golden hills in the bay area that are only green in the spring - I especially love the smell of them on a hot day. Sort of odd considering how much I love color - but there it is. I missed the goldenness when we lived in green, green Washington.

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  11. Cat tail were a grand prize when I was a child. We would dry them out and light the ends like big cigars. Big summertime fun in new jersey. Now I live in Florida and when I pass mosquito infested swamps loaded with cat tails, I can honestly say.....that the thrill is gone.

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  12. Lisa -

    We had one in our backyard, and because we lived on a hill, we could look down and see the Mimosa from above, it was like an undulating ocean of pink. Also/too: they are hummingbird magnets here in California.

    I highly recommend them.

    Regards,

    Tengrain

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  13. "I'm a mermaid again, gliding through the warm water, breaking the surface into the cooling air, my dark hair slicked back. Now I'm a seal, glistening wet, my compact, young form all slick muscle, taut skin."

    Sometimes I see the writers I love with new eyes, and am transported.

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  14. I was so entranced when I first saw mimosa trees at Roger Williams Park in Providence that when the first seed pods grew, I took some home and planted a few in a pot. A couple of years later I had a fine pair of little trees with leaves as you described them growing in my living room - rather several living rooms as we moved almost half a dozen times over the course of 16 years. Eventually, they got left behind along with all the others, but I still remember how beautiful were those exotic pink fairy flowers blooming in a place they weren't supposed to be at all.

    See? You just reminded me my perspective hasn't changed that much at all.

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  15. "Until I stop and really notice them. Then I am transported."

    Ah, to really see the things you look at. To be present in a way that doesn't factor and filter in agenda. We just live at such a crazy pace now.

    The mimosa trees sound wonderful.

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  16. The first time I took Peter to my hometown of Lancaster, PA, he looked out at all the rolling hills and valleys, the farmland, the silos and red barns, and was in awe. He actually said, "You have hills and valleys here!" I glanced out the window but barely saw it. So what? That was just home.

    Now, enough time has passed since I've been gone that when I go to Lancaster, I'm struck by the beauty of those rolling hills. Sometimes you have to leave to really see a place, I guess.

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And then you say....

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