When We Think About Change

loud and clear magnolias

For the most part we experience the world as consistent. Even change follows a certain kind of pattern. Difference comes, and then it repeats itself: tempering in a cycle of time.

But, what happened when Darwin looked a little closer at a finch’s beak? Or when Galileo watched the tides rise, curiously out of touch with expectation? Philosophers call moments like that a “paradigm shift," because it wasn’t just about the beak for Darwin. Suddenly, it was about everything. He saw turtles and trumpet vines and all sorts of creatures---and he wondered how they had come to be there. The birds called, same they ever did. What changed was how Darwin saw them.

The half-way point of my daily walk is marked by a tree, less than a story tall. I thought it was a pussy willow. All through the winter the branches were bare, save for the tiny buds covered in fuzz that glowed in the winter sun.

When spring started up with sixty-degree days, I waited for the street to change. I looked for cherry blossoms and tulip trees, but all of New England stayed quiet. Perhaps it would just become green, I thought, without any heralded arrival. I even began to ask people in town: “does anything bloom around here?” They all assured me and advised I be patient. But I didn't know this season in Massachusetts. So I held onto the sneaking feeling that spring had already come for us and there was no reason to wait.

Then one day, on my walk to town, I realized that the pussy willow . . . well, wasn't.The buds cracked open to reveal a clutch of long pink petals.  It had become a magnolia overnight.  Over the week, a hundred blossoms broke the shells that had held them for winter.

By now, the petals have fallen and are beginning to rust. But I am living in the everything after.