The Legend of the Dogwood

The legend of the dogwood tree was told to us as children, growing up in the South. The dogwood is a beautiful, magical little tree that blooms for a bright week, usually around Easter time. Its blossoms are usually a hot white but sometimes, you can find that odd pink dogwood tree that pops from someone’s yard display like a happy accident.

The story goes that the dogwood is an ancient kind of tree and that it, once upon a time, was as giant and robust as a California Redwood (maybe not that robust, but close. Like an oak.). It was so strong and capable, in fact, that it was the wood used to fashion Jesus Christ’s cross.

Because of its wicked role in the crucifixion of His Son, God punished it for all eternity. It would never grow tall and straight towards heaven, again. Instead, it would be crooked, too brittle and weak to use for much of anything. Its blossoms would be small, bruising to the touch, and they would only be allowed a short window for beauty, just a week, and then disappear again for the rest of the year.

But. The blossoms are blessed. They are shockingly white, with four petals in the shape of a cross. Each petal bears the mark of a nail, with a small red pigment to remind us of His Blood. It’s impossible (should you know the legend) to look upon these unassuming flowers and NOT think of the crucifixion and what (again, using your imagination and the magic of legends) this tree must have witnessed long ago.

It’s one of my favorite Southern stories, and I especially think of it on Good Friday.

Today, our weather is breathtakingly perfect. The trees and flowers and shrubs have all exploded in color. My children and I have actually NOTICED these slow, small changes this spring – I think, for the first time ever. These bike rides and afternoon walks have given us time to think and notice and appreciate. And for that, and the dogwood tree legend, I am very grateful.

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