Legend of the Dogwood
In Jesus time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong & firm it's branches interwoven
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so
Slender & twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected this tree shall be
A reminder to all of my agony."
Given that the Dogwood Tree is not native to the ancient lands of Israel and Palestine, the origination of the “Legend of the Dogwood” is almost certainly somewhere in the Southern Appalachians of America. To our family, the legend originated with Kathy’s late mother Betty, who was born and raised in West Virginia and retained a deep appreciation and reverence for Appalachian folklore, including the legend of the flowering dogwoods. To Kathy’s mother, the Dogwood flower was a beautiful symbol of rebirth and resurrection, a meaning derived from its legendary association to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It was natural then, that despite warnings about potential diseases and late freezes that a flowering Dogwood would become a treasured feature of our backyard landscaping project completed a couple of summers ago. But late last spring, we had pretty much given up hope for our new little tree. No flowers, no green leaves, no sign that the little Dogwood had survived the transplanting and the winter. The only reason we didn’t replace it was that we weren’t sure what to replace it with. But then in June, we noticed a few green shoots emerging, not from the tips of the branches but they were sure signs of life returning from deep within the heart of the tree. By fall, after pruning the dead branch tips, the little tree was looking like it actually might survive!
Fast forward to April, 2020, and as we’re checking our weather apps for the latest updates on Covid cases in Porter County, we’re also checking the predictions for overnight low temperatures while nervously watching the progress of the Dogwood buds. There were the warm days and nights of temptation for the buds, but there were also several nights with sub-freezing lows, then there was the overnight snow of April 17!!
So now we’re safely (we hope) into May and it would seem that the rebirth of our Dogwood is complete, blossoms and all. Of course we know there may be challenges ahead, perhaps a harder winter, maybe pests or viruses we haven’t even heard of yet. But for now, we’re choosing to wake up each morning, peer out our kitchen window, and appreciate and enjoy the blossoms on our little Dogwood, our own living symbol of rebirth and resurrection, in Jesus Christ of course, but also in our appreciation of how much we love and need each other.
That is, after all, what Betty would want us to do,