By Dai-En Bennage
One day when I was a child of eight or nine, my father brought home a young magnolia tree in blossom to plant in our garden of the many other trees, flowers, and vegetables that he loved so much. We planted the tree, enjoying its slender trunk and delicate petals.
It seemed that the less well my father did in business, the more beautiful our garden became. My younger brother and I had a secret, unspoken grudge against our father because, while there was always butter on our grandparents' table, there was only margarine on ours.
Years passed, and our house was sold. Later yet, my father died. Many years later, after practicing at Plum Village during the winter of 1990-1991,1 had the opportunity to teach walking meditation in a beautiful arboretum in Philadelphia. It was a bright spring day and I enjoyed touching the tree trunks and blades of grass. Upon rounding a corner, I came upon a very young magnolia tree in blossom. Without thinking, I reached out to the petals. Upon feeling the blossom against the palm of my hand, the ancient grudge against my father totally dissipated. I had come to realize that his talent lay not in raising money, but in raising trees, vegetables, and flowers.
A few days afterward, I visited my former home and found our majestic magnolia completely covered in blossoms, reaching over the garage and even half of the neighbor's yard! From one of the bowing branches that hung over the fence, I picked two blossoms. Bringing them home to my altar, I placed them in a vase beside the photograph of my father. I knew that both of us were very proud of the magnolia tree.
Patricia Dai-En Bennage is a Soto Zen priest in Muncy, Pennsylvania.