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On my favorite Christmas Eve, we had an ice storm.
I was in high school and woke to a world with no power, and my parents outside assessing the situation. I heard their voices through my window (signs of a house built in 1990?) and as I peered through, I nearly cried.
My beloved dogwood tree was bent to the earth, weeping with the ice crystals.
My first question to my parents was if my little dogwood would make it through the storm. I remember being criticized for caring about a tree when we had no power for the foreseeable future, no way to travel, no generator.
But at that moment all that seemed to matter was my tiny tree, which could be seen from my window and only mine. Its white blossoms felt hopeful each Spring. No matter the heat, the tree bloomed, the chinks in its petals setting it apart from all other trees.
This morning I walked across campus, breathing in the beauty of the dogwoods. We have pink, cream, and white ones, all gloriously blooming on our mini-mountain.
Have you heard the legend of the dogwood? It says that the cross of Christ was made from a dogwood tree. After the crucifixion, God cursed the trees so they would not grow as large anymore.
The interpretation I read even said that pink dogwoods are pink because they are embarrassed at their part in the crucifixion.
A more solid connection is that believers saw the dogwood flower as a symbol of the cross: the notches in the petals symbolized where the nails were placed, and the small rust dots on the petals were like blood.
Already this morning I was counting the precious pink petals among my thousand gifts. With the further meaning, it makes my heart swell.
I may not have a dogwood outside my window right now – merely an amazing view of the Tennessee River – but it’s a future possibility as we may move around campus. As long as we live on campus, though, I’ll always have dogwoods nearby.
I’ll let their image imprint my mind and mingle with that of the cross. A perfect Easter gift, nature crying out in praise.