Long ago, the trees spoke to us,
and we listened,
and treasured their lore and wisdom.
woods and forests are ancient places,
giving life to creatures both great and small,
and many trees live longer than any of us individually.
from great, towering redwoods,
tallest sentinels of the overstory of the forest…
and smooth baobabs, with trunks as wide as elephants…
to graceful birches with their curling paper bark…
to quivering stands of aspen…
to whispering pine…
and stubborn burr oak–
each of them reminds us
of the wisdom of community and generosity.
Every tree gives of itself,
shelter and shade,
habitat for birds and insects,
fruit and seed for food,
sap for sweetness,
even purifying the air that we breathe.
This story is from that time long ago
when we listened to the trees speak to us.
Today, dogwood trees
only grow in Europe, East Asia, and North America.
But ages ago, some have claimed
that the dogwood was a mighty tree,
with a broad straight trunk.
It was prized by carpenters everywhere,
especially around the Mediterranean.
Ancient Israel was not known to have many large trees,
which is why buildings were often made
with cedars from Lebanon,
or acacia wood.
When the Romans invaded a country,
they ruthlessly put down rebellions
by executing rebels on wooden crosses.
The trees hated being put to such uses.
Worst of all was when the Romans crucified Jesus.
The trees wept at being forced to take part
in this terrible spectacle.
The tree that wept the loudest was the dogwood.
It cried out to God
to keep it from ever being used
in such a way
And so God granted the dogwood’s wish.
“Henceforth, O loving dogwood,
you will become part
of the understory of the forest.
Your wood will be twisty
and your trunk will be narrow.
You will bear flowers
of softest white, red, and pink.
You will be close to the earth,
and you will carpet the forest floor with beauty.
“Your flowers will tell the story
of Jesus’s resurrection.
Each year at Easter time,
you will burst forth with blooms
even while the other trees are bare.
Each bloom will be cruciform—
four petals in the shape of a cross.
“On the end of each petal
will be a mark,
to remind all who seen them
of the four wounds in Jesus’s hands and feet
just as the disciples saw long ago.
At the center of each bloom
will be Jesus’s crown of thorns,
now turned green and golden
as a sign of victory.”
And so it has remained to this day.
Each time we see a dogwood tree bloom in early spring,
we know that Easter is here,
and that Christ is risen.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.