Wandering Among Dogwood Lamps

Late last night, there was thunder. After several moments, an eerie flash caught my eye from where I lay reading. Through a doorway across the room, then through a double window across another room, our dogwood tree was perfectly framed. Momentarily, the entire tree became an exquisite, living Tiffany lamp, lit from the inside by a mysterious argent light source . . .

April is “dogwood time” in the Mid-South. This year, our delightful dogwood is extraordinarily beautiful. Its flower petals are whiter and much larger than they have ever been, densely covering all the branches. They are so large that when a breeze ripples through the tree, the petals flutter like the wings of large, white butterflies . . .

Yes, I am familiar with the legends and symbolism surrounding the dogwood tree. The legends, I discount. They are interesting as fables but have no Biblical or historically factual basis. The symbolism, however, I do embrace. I like every reminder, every metaphor, that reminds me of Jesus and His love:

The petals, which are actually specialized leaves, or bracts, are the purest white, which reminds me of Christ’s perfect purity. There are four petals arranged in a cross-like pattern, and each petal has a semicircular hole at the tip, reminiscent of those that might be made by a nail. In addition, each “hole” is mysteriously stained with a pinkish or reddish blotch. The true flower is in the center of the four petals. It is green and yellow and is said to be a reminder of the crown of thorns that was forced painfully onto Jesus’ head. Interestingly, the “berries” often form in clusters of three. Their red color among the green leaves reminds me of Christbirth – the Christmas season! The sets of three, to me, symbolize the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity.

. . . . There was lightning once again, then more thunder, and this time it was closer. I turned my reading light off. The enveloping darkness was immediately banished by the intense, momentary, white glow of the dogwood. Once again, it looked as though it was lit from within, and somehow I was transported; translated to a place I had been only in my imagination until last night. This time it seemed real.
I was walking on a winding, groomed garden path surrounded by surreal beauty. Unearthly beauty, except that here, too, there were dogwoods. The garden was so large, I could not see the beginning nor ending of it. An ancient place; possibly the parent of all gardens . . .

The path meandered, and the dogwoods that lined it were all lit from inside their canopies by light that made the sun seem dimmer by comparison, yet it was a soft light. Magnificent blooming magnolias of all kinds and colors formed a backdrop. There were sprays of color from crabtrees and redbuds behind the dogwoods, as occasional apple, peach, and pear trees displayed their richly-flowered abundance. All were lit with the same urgently-joyous white glow.

As I continued, I perceived a change: the blooming trees were giving way to ancient olive trees. Soon, I was in a much different garden; possibly the parent of all olive gardens! Those thick, gnarly trunks had the look of having seen countless days; having seen wonders and also tragedies. This place was reminiscent of the garden where Jesus would go to pray . . . and each old tree also glowed from inside, but with a more yellow-green light; a more somber light.
I walked on, but was dismayed when the path changed to pebbles and dirt. Pebbles, and dirt, and rough rocks. There were no more trees, only dry-bones desert. There were no more lights, no glow. No joy. None.
I looked back and there was only a dismal, grim cross on a barren hill. I was lost in desolation. Isolation. I ran and stumbled repeatedly. The sky was dark at midday . . .

After a seeming eternity, the dry, rugged path skirted the top of a high cliff from which I could look down upon an expansive valley. I saw the garden of olives. Beyond that was beauty of which I could see no beginning nor any end.  Across the valley were snow-covered mountains glowing mightily from a mysteriously powerful inner luminescence. Low on the mountainsides were aspen trees in “new leaf”, not yet even knowing how to shimmer and quake. There were flowering trees of every description lit from the inside with indescribable light. Multitudes of multicolored butterflies were alighting in the trees for the night. In the increasingly dusky light, even larger numbers of fireflies were replacing them in the air; blinking stars among numerous full-moons.
I knelt on one knee.

“I must somehow get back to that”, I thought. “I was not made for this distressing place; this despair. I know now I was made to live in the immense Garden – in the place of The Lights – to enjoy them forever.”
I can’t tell you what, or whom, it was that lifted me by my arms and glided me down – wafted – like an ecstatic dandelion seed in a cool spring breeze, to the valley of beauty far below. At last I stood in wonder, at home on the dogwood and firefly-lit path; tall, living, dogwood Tiffany lamps standing joyfully much farther than I could ever see.
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