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April 20, 2005
I'm not sure we've ever had dinner out here this early in the year, Q said. He's probably right: we eat under the dogwood tree all summer and into the fall, shaded first by its white blossoms, then by its umbrella of green leaves and finally under a blazing canopy of red after the leaves have turned. But spring has been dragging its feet here this year, and not even the blossoms are out yet. We're not under the shade of anything. But that's all right. It's evening, and the sunlight slants gently across the grass. The cats are all out, each picking her way through a different section of the garden. Noodle is stalking flying insects, crouching down low to track them and then springing into the air to catch them in her teeth.

The crosses are coming, I tell Q, and he looks up at the branches above his head. Hundreds of tiny pale green packages perch at the ends of all the branches: the dogwood blossoms are folded up tightly inside them, like parachutes. We'll be away this evening and tomorrow night; when we return, the little packets will have opened, and the white blossoms will seem like lovely drifts of cloud hanging in the air.

See the crown of thorns? my father said, pointing to the circle of tiny yellow buds in the center of each blossom. And here is the blood, he said, pointing to the spot of red at the tip of each leaf. The dogwood put on those signs when Christ was crucified on a cross made from its wood, he told me, a gift from the dying Savior, who saw the tree's sorrow and shame at being used for such a purpose. Never again would dogwoods grow large enough to be used to make crosses. Henceforth they would be only for beauty. No tree is lovelier than the dogwood.

Never again. Let us make the remembrance of sorrow as beautiful as we can, let us stitch our pain into the fabric of our lives and make a design. Let beauty be a warning of how much we have to lose, and let us not shrink from remembering the beauty we have already lost. We will have pain in life anyway, beauty or no: how we will wear it is largely our choice.
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