First off … it is important to know that I am not “from ‘round here”! I was born and raised in Wyoming and North Carolina is my adopted home. So many things that are taken for granted by those who are “from ‘round here” have so often escaped me. Thus it is so for the little solitary tree.
Each spring, right around Easter, I would notice the little white trees that often times grew alone against the backdrop of the evergreens here. There across the freshly planted fields would grow these little white trees…all alone. From their chosen solitary place, their bright white shoots stood out from all the others. I would marvel how something that delicate and clean could grow by itself, apparently against all the odds, different from all the countless trees around it. There was no doubt that its beauty was made an example of just because of its ability to be so different…and so solitary.
For those of you who haven’t already figured this out, the tree is a dogwood. Though it is a common decorative plant, used by many including myself as a yard landscape tree, it will always be to me that solitary white tree shining out from the darkness of the surrounding forest.
It was just a few years ago now that I was conversing with some of my coworkers about wanting to plant one of these little trees in my yard to try and replicate the “little solitary tree” when one of them chimed in “You mean the Christ tree?” I know now just how stupid I must have appeared to him at that moment when I said “What CHRIST TREE?” He went about educating me in the finer points of being here in the South and instructed me to look up the legend of the dogwood tree myself on the internet. Rest assured that what I found is worth sharing here:
At the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood had reached the size of the mighty oak tree. So strong and firm was the wood that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross.
To be used for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the dogwood. While nailed upon it, Jesus sensed this, and in his compassion said. “Because of your pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for a cross. Henceforth, it shall be slender, bent, and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross–two long and two short petals.
“In the center of the outer edge of each petal will be the print of nails. In the center of the flower, stained with blood, will be a crown of thorns so that all who see it will remember.”
Now…I do admit that changed the way I view this little tree. But only slightly. See, now I walk across the yard or the field to look closely at the blooms. They grow more beautiful each year to me now. There are five in my yard right now and more are being planted each year. But I think the prettiest of them all are still the ones growing alone in the wild. Somehow, even with the legend in mind, the solitary ones that shine from the darkness of the North Carolina wilds are even more Christ trees to me!
I have to go now…it’s almost Easter!