A young woman named Gina called me after seeing an exhibition of TreeSpirit images at a restaurant in Fairfax, CA. She said she loved them so much she wanted to be in one — and with her one-year-old son, Enzo. I was surprised, and moved, that she could place such trust in me sight-unseen, based only on what she felt from seeing the photographs.
We chose this magnolia tree for the mother-daughter portrait, the largest either of us knew of, and nicknamed, “The Grand Old Dame.” It lived at The Marin Art & Garden Center in Ross, CA, planted in 1870, and had been growing there for over 135 years when we made our plans to visit.
She had grown to become a beloved centerpiece of the gardens.
We planned for a weekday late afternoon, without official permission. Surrounded by and enveloped in her extensive branches, we were in effect alone to photograph, as life beyond her radiating branches went on as usual, and unaware of us.
Tears welled in me when I learned a few years later that a storm toppled her, revealing extensive fungal damage to her roots. Despite the center’s efforts to save this old friend, her time had come. She is survived by her children — visible in the background here — forty magnolias completely encircling their mother, growing up and moving out into the world, much like little Enzo.