Tag Archives: dogwood

A Short Season

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Savoring now and anticipating Heaven…

The rhythm of the seasons amazes and comforts me from year to year as colors, temperatures and scents change according to their predetermined timetables.  Springtime in my yard brings the tiny (and sorely neglected!) crocuses next to my driveway, followed by a stray daffodil or two.  As this process starts, my dogwood tree is sprouting tiny little crowns which eventually become the centers of the trademark cross-shaped blossoms the dogwood is known for.

The month of May brings the opening of the peonies, one of my favorite flowers in the world.  When we moved into our house, we inherited a long row of white double peonies that a previous owner had planted and cared for.  I haven’t done much to them in the years we have lived in our home—I need to divide them so they will thrive and not die out.

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These flowers have a short blooming season, a time I anticipate with joy each year.  As lovely as the fluffy blossoms are to see, their fragrance is the most intoxicating thing about them.  I fell in love with that aroma from the first time it entered my nostrils and lodged itself in my memory.  It’s difficult to describe a scent, but the peony smells both sweet and earthy when it is in full bloom.  Once I saw someone on television offering a perfume with the word “Peony” in its name, and I thought, “How wonderful that this essence has been bottled!”  And I bought a bottle, only to find myself sorely disappointed.  It smelled nothing like peonies at all.  Some things just can’t be captured.

Now I realize that I just need to enjoy the beauty of the peonies and their heavenly fragrance during the brief time when they are in bloom.  I can photograph their visual beauty to enjoy during the remainder of the year when they are dormant.  As for that fragrance, I imagine that Heaven is filled with scents as lovely as the essence of the peonies…and in Heaven, that aroma is not limited by a Short Season.

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Dogwood Legends

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A tree, a flower and a symbol…

My dogwood tree is starting to bud.  Tiny but recognizable cross-shaped blossoms are emerging from its scraggly, thin branches.  On this Good Friday, I can’t help but think about the symbolism of the dogwood tree and the speculations of how it came to appear the way it does today.

I grew up hearing various legends and poems about how the dogwood was thought to be the kind of tree from which Jesus’s cross was made.  I am not a historian, botanist or scientist, so I have no concrete basis to assert whether or not these legends are true.  But when I look at the humble dogwood, I can see distinct symbols.

The dogwood’s most distinctive feature is its cross-shaped bloom which emerges every spring.  In the center of each blossom is a round green cluster thought to represent the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head.  The edge of each of the four petals, or bracts, has what looks like a small tear or rip, and that rip symbolizes the tearing of Jesus’s flesh by the nails in His hands and feet and the spear in His side.  This rip is usually tinged with a reddish-brown edge, symbolic of His shed blood.  White dogwoods signify the purity of Jesus and His perfect atonement on the cross, while the pink dogwood is thought to blush in shame at being the tree used to build the cross.  The leaves of the dogwood turn a mottled red in the fall, again symbolizing the blood of Christ.

According to legend, the dogwood once grew tall, strong and sturdy, which is why it was chosen to be the tree from which the cross would be constructed.  After the crucifixion, the dogwood’s shame was such that it never again grew in a way that would allow it to be used for such a horrible purpose. Instead it grows into the smallish, gnarled tree we see today.

I marvel at the humble dogwood and its many reminders of the sacrifice Christ made on the cross, for me, for all.  Skeptics can say that all the symbols depicted are mere coincidence, and I suppose that is possible.  All I know is that, for me, the dogwood serves as a poignant reminder Christ’s life and death.  He paid a debt He did not owe, because I owed a debt I could not pay.

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