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That gnarly old Magnolia outside my bedroom window is looking good — for the first time in years.

And I am amazed this should be so, given the trials the tree has endured.  First there was the long drought of 2006 with triple digit temperatures — then the one-two punch it suffered in 2007 — a crippling ice storm preceded by a sewer line replacement that sliced and diced deep roots on its western boundary.  And as if these indignities weren’t enough, I delivered what I later feared to be its down-for-the-count  knock-out when, in 2008, I severed two sides of feeder roots with my new flagstone path.

But today, under a gorgeous blue autumn sky, the Magnolia’s large waxy leaves cup sunshine while its coral seed pods look like Christmas lights shimmering across a full canopy. In a polar-opposite way, my window view reminds me of other trees I saw today, getting spruced up for the holidays.   Uptown on Western Avenue, patient, capable hands of a local landscape crew were busy stringing twinkling lights on a large number of tall trees bordering a large corporate campus.  From tree trunk to limb to branch, the crews worked its way up to the big blue sky, covering each tree in tight ringlets of all shades of light.

Mother had a favorite saying about the life of “the rich,” and if any trees in our neck of the woods are “rich,” it’s these that live on the well-groomed grounds of Chesapeake Energy.  Mom always spoke these words in response to my own observation of how beautiful some rich or famous person was — like Jackie O for instance — that I’d run across in the pages of a glossy magazine.

I’d say my “how pretty” bit.  Then, Mom would look up from her sewing to peek at whoever had garnished my compliment — and without fail —  she’d hmmph her way to a comeback:  “It’s easy to look good when you’re rich.  I’d look good too with her money.”

I never paid these particular words of Mom much mind.  And today was no different — when I sat down to write for the first time in two weeks, Mother’s oft spoken words on the “rich and the beautiful” were the furthest thing from my mind.  But rising out of the big blue yonder, they came home to roost in my Magnolia tree, with a will and life of their own.

As I sat contrasting the natural beauty of my poor Job tree against the gussied up beauty of the well-heeled trees of my rich neighbor, all I could think of was Mother’s same old words.