"Faint was the air with the odorous breath of magnolia blossoms..."
I knew this would happen sooner rather than later. The big plans I had for this week's post were shot down by my muddle-headed packing last Friday. The fabulous Chipola River float trip photos I took on Saturday are still waiting in my camera. They can't be uploaded because I left the all-important cable--whatever it's called--on the desk at home in Pensacola. The computer here at the Tallahassee apartment, dinosaur that it is, won't accept the memory card from the camera. So, I'm stuck with what photos I have on hand for now, and none are very recent. New, though, doesn't always hold out or onto the promise of better. The magnificent Southern magnolia tree I see just outside our apartment window finally gets to have its moment in the spotlight. It's definitely not new, size-wise or phylogenetically, towering above our second-story apartment and brushing the roof over our heads while we sleep. The magnolia family line goes back so far in time that remains of this tree's ancestors--remarkably similar to present-day specimens--can be found in fossils dating to at least 36 million years ago. Here is an excellent article about magnolias written by a man I almost got to meet on Monday. I'm hoping to continue my MG volunteer commitment here locally (Tallahassee vicinity), and if the stars align or the powers-that-be agree, I might get to help out at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. I'm excited at the prospect! One of the most interesting aspects of the place centers around the interdisciplinary approach to research.
Apparently, this approach is becoming more prevalent in scientific circles. According to another interesting article, fusion is where it's at in research these days:
Consider this thought experiment: When new generation textbooks are written 10-20 years from now, might they be structured differently from at present? I think they will. They will unify topics that are taught separately at present: traditional botany...quantitative ecology...paleobotany... Textbooks fusing these three strands will teach a sort of ecological systematics. They will hark back to the tradition in which well-trained students knew the natural history of families. But in the new fusion, clades [a new word for me!] will be embedded in tree thinking, rather than seen as natural categories. The paleohistory leading up to them will be explicit and dated and informed by modern geoscience. The natural history will be enriched by quantitative cost-benefit analyses of the strategies of leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and seeds. Everything old will be new again--Mark Westoby, "Phylogenetic Ecology at World Scale, a New Fusion Between Ecology and Evolution," Ecology, 2006.
Maybe there's hope for me yet.
Now, getting back to that line from H. W. Longfellow's epic poem Evangeline, "odorous breath" isn't something we usually associate with magnolias but rather with first-thing-in-the-morning, sleepy-headed, mumble-mouth distance from our friends and loved ones. Since I promised some people I know a recipe for what I use to combat that common barrier to social acceptance and wakefulness, here it is:
1/3 cup food-grade, vegetable glycerin
1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide (optional--there are pros and cons for its use)
Distilled water (enough to fill a quart-size jar after addition of first two ingredients)
Several drops of each of the following essential oils: anise, cinnamon, clove, ginger, lemon or lime, nutmeg, orange, peppermint, and spearmint. Make sure that you obtain therapeutic-grade oils from a reputable source. I'm not going to recommend brands here in the post, but I will offer some suggestions if you're curious enough to e-mail me.
Cap jar tightly with lid and shake vigorously, which should be done before each use. I pour mine via funnel into bottles with smaller necks for later ease of pouring. Empty glass "fifth" size or 375-ml bottles (the flat, flask-like ones that liquor stores sell) work quite well.
I hope you like the recipe and that you also find the following video to be in good taste. I found it on YouTube and thought it captured perfectly the evanescent-yet-enduring qualities of a magnolia blossom.