Saturday, April 9, 2016

Blooming Dogwoods

The dogwood trees are blooming! 

On the street where I live
And I'm thrilled.

Now it's really spring! The progression of daffodils and dandelions and sarvus trees continued this week into the dogwoods, our state flower. Note that it's not North Carolina's state tree. That's the longleaf pine. I'm talking flower, a flower that grows on a tree.

Legend has it that the dogwood tree was once a majestic specimen towering higher than oak trees. Today it only towers over single story houses. Once it was strong enough to bear the weight of a man. Jesus Christ. Crucified on a dogwood tree. Now it can't support the weight of a ten year old tree climbing adventurer.

A close examination of the blossom reveals more of the legend. Its four petals form a cross and at the tip of each petal, a scar or an imprint or more specifically, the stained dent of a nail. The center cluster of seeds resemble the crown of thorns that Jesus wore.

No where does the legend tell the inconvenient truth that dogwood trees don't exist in the middle east.

Legends to a storycatcher like me are approaches people use to relate difficult stories, and the crucifixion is the most difficult of all to explain to children. How does an adult tell an innocent child about cruel death. In the span of a couple months, children go from hearing about peace on earth through a baby in a manger to love and kisses and chocolate at St. Valentine's Day to a cross draped in black on Good Friday. Little wonder the Easter bunny (with colorful eggs and baskets of chocolate goodies) appeared on the scene to distract children from the harshness around them.

By holy design or by convenient accident, the dogwood blossom does a very unique job. It gives an opening to start the discussion.

All is not beautiful and rosy or, dare I say, dogwoody. Diseases are killing off many of these impressive trees, including several in our front yard. Our front yard pink dogwood will no doubt succumb to the plague in a few years. The branches are naturally gnarled, spooky when bare, flowing when in bloom, and hidden when in full leaf. For an amateur horticulturist like me, it's hard to tell a healthy dogwood from a struggling dogwood.

One last observation, thanks to the yearly student response I invariably heard during our fourth grade class discussion on dogwoods. How do you know a dogwood tree?

Answer: By its bark.

Next up, azaleas. 

Catch of the day,


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