The Fragility of the Flower Unbruised

It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.

The fragility of the flower 
unbruised 
penetrates space
~William Carlos Williams from Spring and All (1923)

It is common to look for love only inside the heart of things, pulsing front and center as both showpiece and show off.    We think of love reverberating from deep within, loud enough for all the world to hear and know it is so.

But as I advance on life’s road, I have found the love that matters lies quietly waiting at the periphery of our hearts, so fragile and easily torn as a petal, often drenched in tears –  clinging to the edges of our lives and barely holding on through storms and trials.

This love remains ever-present , both protects and cherishes, fed by fine little veins which branch out from the center of the universe to the tender margins of infinity.

It is on that delicate edge of forever we dwell, our thirst waiting to be slaked and we stand ready, trembling with anticipation.

A Christmas Paradox: Fresh Born and Cross-Blessed

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As once a Child was planted in a womb
(and later, erected on a hill, a wooden cross)
one year we dug a hole to plant a tree.
Our choice, a Cornus Kousa with its fine,
pink, four-petaled bracts, each curving lip
touched with a red as deep as human blood.
It rooted well, and every year it grows
more glorious, bursting free in Spring—bud
into full flower, flame-colored, flushed as wine.
Even the slim sapling’s roughened bark
speaks of that tree, nail-pierced and dark.
Now, each new year, fresh blossoms shine
radiant, and each cross-blessed,
as if all love and loveliness has been compressed
into a flower’s face, fresh as the Son’s
new-born presence, a life only just begun.

The dogwood leaves turn iron red in Fall,
their centers fully ripening—into small seeded balls,
each one a fruit vivid as Mary’s love, and edible.
The sciontree, once sprung from Jesse’s root,
speaks pain and life and love compressed
and taken in, eye, mouth, heart. Incredible
that now all Eucharists in our year suggest
the living Jesus is our Christmas guest.
~Luci Shaw “Dogwood Tree” from 
Eye of the Beholder

 

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God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.
No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer from God Is in the Manger

 

 

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Today we celebrate the paradox of Christ, the Son of God, coming to the world through the womb of a woman, born homeless in order to bring us home with Him.

The uncontainable contained
the infinite made finite
the Deliverer delivered
the Eternal dwelling here and now,
already here but not yet.

We, the children of the Very God of Very God,
are cross-blessed to know He is found, fresh-born, beside us.
We have only to look, listen and taste.

 

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Remain As We Are

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spring

 

 

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summer

 

 

 

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winter

 

 

Our final dogwood leans
over the forest floor

offering berries
to the birds, the squirrels.

It’s a relic
of the days when dogwoods

flourished—creamy lace in April,
spilled milk in May—

their beauty delicate
but commonplace.

When I took for granted
that the world would remain

as it was, and I
would remain with it.
~Linda Pastan “Elegy”

 

 

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The inevitable change of the seasons, as portrayed by the branches of our aging pink dogwood tree, is a reminder nothing stays the same.

Like this old tree, I lean over more, I have a few bare branches with no leaves, I have my share of broken limbs, I have my share of blight and curl.

Yet each stage and transition has its own beauty:  a breathtaking depth of color flourishes on what once was bare.

Nothing is to be taken for granted.  Nothing remains as it was.

Especially me.  Oh, especially me.

 

 

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Pink Synchrony

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After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like <white> dogwood.   (I insert pink here)
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It started this weekend.  The dogwood tree right in front of our porch, having looked pretty much dead to the world since October, started to bud out in subtle pink petaled blossoms. Last week there had been nothing remarkable whatsoever about the tree.

Suddenly it is a feast for the eyes, almost blinding in its brilliance.

Each year the old dogwood startles me.  From dead to brilliant in a mere two weeks.  And not only our tree, but every other pink dogwood within a twenty mile radius has answered the same April siren call: bloom!  bloom your heart out!  dazzle every retina in sight!

And it is done simultaneously on every tree, all the same day, without a sound, without an obvious signal, as if an invisible conductor had swooped a baton up and in the downbeat everything turned pink.  Or perhaps the baton is really a wand, shooting out pink stars to paint these otherwise plain and humble trees, so inconspicuous the rest of the year.

Ordinarily I don’t dress up in finery like these trees do.  I prefer inconspicuous myself.  But I love the celebratory joy of those trees in full blossom and enjoy looking for them in yards and parks and along sidewalks.

Maybe there is something pink in my closet I can wear.  Maybe conspicuous every once in awhile is exactly what is needed.

 

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Drawing Light from Shadow

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Tree, we take leave of you; you’re on your own.
Put down your taproot with its probing hairs
that sluice the darkness and create unseen
the tree that mirrors you below the ground.
For when we plant a tree, two trees take root:
the one that lifts its leaves into the air,
and the inverted one that cleaves the soil
to find the runnel’s sweet, dull silver trace
and spreads not up but down, each drop a leaf
in the eternal blackness of that sky.
The leaves you show uncurl like tiny fists
and bear small button blossoms, greenish white,
that quicken you. Now put your roots down deep;
draw light from shadow, break in on earth’s sleep.
~Roy Scheele “Planting a Dogwood”
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If I Might…

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If I might see another Spring
I’d laugh to-day, to-day is brief;
I would not wait for anything;
I’d use to-day that cannot last,
Be glad to-day and sing.
~Christina Georgina Rossetti from “Another Spring”

 

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sluggy

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Blossomfoam Miracle

from Baslee Troutman Fine Art Collection
…a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;
overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,
dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,
so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.
~Tony Hoagland from “A Color of the Sky”

After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Silent Synchrony

It started last week.  The tree right in front of our porch, having looked dead for the past six months, started to bud out in subtle pink petalled blossoms.
The previous week there had been nothing remarkable whatsoever about the tree.
This week it is a feast for the eyes, almost blinding in its brilliance.

Each year the dogwood startles me.  From dead to brilliant in a mere two weeks.  And not only our tree, but every other pink dogwood within a twenty mile radius has answered the same April siren call: bloom!  bloom your heart out!  dazzle every retina in sight!

And it is done simultaneously on every tree, all the same day, without a sound, without an obvious signal, as if an invisible conductor had swooped a baton up and in the downbeat everything turned pink.  Or perhaps the baton is really a wand, shooting out pink stars to paint these otherwise plain and humble trees, so inconspicuous the rest of the year.

Ordinarily I don’t dress up in finery like these trees do.  I prefer inconspicuous for myself.  But I love the celebratory joy of those trees in full blossom and enjoy looking for them in yards and parks and along sidewalks.

Maybe there is something pink in my closet I can wear.  Maybe conspicuous every once in awhile is exactly what is needed.

Feast for the Eyes

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There are two reliable things that happen on our farm in April besides taxes being due: the Haflingers start serious shedding of their worn winter coats and the huge pink dogwood tree in front of our house bursts into bloom as consolation over the taxes.

We’re still currying hair from the horses–it will be another 2-3 weeks before it all lets go, as the nights are still cool and that hair feels mighty nice in the cold breezes. The summer undercoat is shining beneath that old winter hair, and glistens as it is revealed–hair flies everywhere, sticks to our sleeves and gets in our noses and mouths. As the horses groom each other they end up with hair-lined teeth and furry tongues.

Breeding for next year’s foals has begun and the dance between mare and stallion is a rash and hurried affair, with little subtlety or mystery. Two minutes and it is done, and nearly a year later, a new life to show for it. I never cease to be amazed at how extraordinarily profound and completely primitive it is at the same time.

Our dogwood tree, some 30 feet tall, in silent coordination with every other pink dogwood in our community, is about to bloom, and it seems now that everywhere I go there are brother and sister dogwoods that I notice only this time of year. We neighbors all share this common bond in our pink dogwoods–10 days of show before the leaves come and the pink petals rain down and the trees resume ordinary status.

These brilliant blossoms are profound in their pink glory–a feast for the eyes — perfection of colored petals tipped by white, but in the middle, this volcano dome-like center that seems so primitive and out of place in something so beautiful. Yet it is that center that lasts long after the petals have melted into the ground and disappeared. There would be no future blooms otherwise. The petals are transient and soothe my eyes, but the knobby core of the blossom is the essence of the dogwood.

Profound can be found in the most primitive if we remember our origin. After all, we were once dust. There is nothing more primitive than that.

And the fact we exist is the most profound of all.

dogwood13 months ago, the dogwood in an ice storm…

and now…

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