Sitting on a Blue Bench Amidst Powder Puff Magnolias

"Powder Puff" Loebner Magnolia, Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin II

“Powder Puff” Magnolia © 2011 Bo Mackison

Ask yourself, “Why am I seeing and feeling this? How am I growing? What am I learning?” Remember, every coincidence is potentially meaningful. How high your awareness level is determines how much meaning you get from your world. ~  Ansel Adams

On my visit to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison early this week, it was a pleasure to see so many of the trees and plants in bloom. I let my imagination soar a bit while I was sitting on a bright blue bench, taking in the blooming beauty of a nearby magnolia tree. (If you follow my blog, you may recall I try to take at least 10 minutes out of each shooting hour to sit and capture the atmosphere in my body and mind, not only with my lens.)

I think it is making me a more aware photographer, perhaps it will eventually make me a better photographer. But today, this quiet time interludes give me many gifts not associated with photography at all.

Perhaps it is a plot, I thought as I sat quietly — a benevolent plot arranged by nature to cheer the many humans who are running around on this planet feeling over-worked, overwhelmed, unfulfilled. Those who are thinking, hopelessly, “I will never reach my goals, I will never find true happiness.”

Perhaps for the last month–this record-breaking cloudy, cool April–nature held back her beauty, anticipating a great unveiling. For it does seem that many of the flowers–whole gardens of flowers–popped open, bloomed, spilled their bright colors, all timed perfectly.

One week it was cloudy, rainy, icy. And then–poof–it was spring.

As I sat on the bright blue bench (of which I have grown very fond–everyone should have a bright blue bench to sit upon) I watched two cardinals darting about the magnolia. I don’t recall ever seeing cardinals interacting in such a way before, but they were swooping into the dense flowers and swooping out again, circling the trees, up and down–like a game of follow the leader or a spontaneous dance. When they stopped to rest on a branch, they began a back and forth chirping contest, louder and louder, calls were startlingly clear, cheerful. I laughed to hear them, it was so spontaneously beautiful.

It was as  if the two cardinals were calling to everyone in the gardens–and there were many of us walking the garden paths. And they were saying,

“Here. Look. Here is this gift for you. Take this experience and hold on to it. Enjoy it now. Enjoy the sun casting colorful shadows on the pink magnolia blossoms. Enjoy the orange tulips nodding into the ir yellow neighbors. Enjoy the fresh air and the cheerful callings of the birds. Be open to the joy of these myriad gifts, take that joy home, and tuck it in your heart. Keep it safe. Then, when the clouds and storms return, pull out this memory, this sunny day feeling of the garden filled with glad tidings of spring, and be thankful.”


About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Gandalf says:

    I’m imaging the Magnolia is in a big game of “Peek-a-Boo.” This raises my musing as to why Peek-a-Boo is such fun for little children? This reminds me of when my children were small and found the game hysterical (may have been my face or intonation). Fond & found memories stringing from your photo. 🙂

  2. Wonderful post, Bo. 🙂

  3. Joanne Keevers says:

    A beautiful magnolis, Bo, although you have left me curious about the bright blue bench. No photo? I’m developing a rather strong liking for benches. Your cardinal friends are very wise little fellows. 🙂

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