The Big Red Seed

The audacity of the red seeds stopped me, and I couldn’t take another step.   How could a seed be THAT red?  Solid, bright fire engine red.  Pure unadulterated red if there is such a thing.  Few plants have both an incredible flower and an overwhelmingly amazing seed pod and seeds.   But our magnolia does.  These ancient trees, from at least 100 million years ago, are one of the earliest of flowering plants, and their flowers are sometimes called “primitive”.  It’s hard to fathom the wisdom a plant being carries that is that old.  As I said in an earlier post this year on the magnolia tree, she is the grandmother, the strong one who figured out how to flower first, and she is hardly primitive or simple.   She has stayed true to what works for her, and she knows without a doubt how best to keep her progeny alive for more millennia than we can imagine, through more changes in the past on this earth than we can even begin to understand.   One hundred million years is at least twenty times older than the earliest of our human ancestors. 

It is fun to imagine these ancient trees, being one of the first to bring forth a flower, were so amazed at what they had given birth to, that the passion from that act overflowed into making incredibly erotic seeds and seed pods as well.  Or perhaps the seeds decided they were not going to be out done by the flowers!   Or as the scientists I am sure would tell us – what better way to attract birds to spread their seed than to be as bright as possible?

The magnolia seed pods are as big as a hand and start out being like a pinecone before they open, but with a fuzzy pink coat.  Then each section opens like two doors to reveal a heart shaped chamber, that also resembles a vulva when it first opens.  And it births a big red seed from deeper inside, still attached by a fine silk thread like an umbilical cord, that lets it hang from the pod for a while, drawing its last sustenance from the mother pod, until a bird or other animal comes along to snatch it. 

The magnolia pod proudly holds her newborn red seeds out to the world, clearly wanting them to be seen.  She knows their beauty, their rightness and purpose in the world, without needing any permission or approval other than for a bird or a squirrel to pluck them and carry them to their new home.  The bright red color makes me laugh out loud – it seems so playful, so over the top, so much more color than necessary, especially in our temperate climate, where colors are not as big and bright as the tropics.  And the way the red seeds are spit out of the seed pod, is at once erotic and also as if she is sticking out her tongue.  “Here!  Take this gorgeous treat that is a big fat drop of my life blood.  I need to make sure you see how beautiful I am, just in case you missed my flowers earlier this summer!  I am Queen Magnolia!  I will not be ignored!”

And it is true, how COULD we fail to see her?  With her bright glossy green leaves with rusty red undersides, her gloriously fragrant flowers in early summer, the fuzzy pink seed pods, and her bright red seeds that she spits out everywhere, she is a showstopper for sure.  She never quit being who she was when the new kids on the block, the modern flowers, rolled in with their new tricks and fancy lacy ballgowns.  She never worried she wasn’t just right as she was. 

In a world where the clamoring cacophony of voices of all kinds increasingly cry out with their unmet needs to be seen and heard, it is tremendously refreshing and even instructive to see how simple it can be, to be seen in nature.  The magnolia, our ancient crone of flowers, shows us that our passion must be shared without reservation or worry, or our heart’s desire, our beauty, our creation, will be dimmed and not seen as it could and should be.

What happens when we are not afraid of what others will think?  When we are not afraid to dance and sing and create with the innocent wisdom of a 5-year-old child?  Then our heart’s desire can burst forth like the red seed of the Queen Magnolia knowing its worth and place in the world without a second thought.

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