The Prettiest of Trees the Dogwood Now

In the northeast woods, the trees have been green for about two weeks.  Roughly one out of a thousand, maybe one out of two thousand, is a dogwood, a southern import–the state tree or flower of many states below the Mason-Dixon line, including my own Virginia, but rare here.  Dogwoods are now in the height of their bloom, their flowers a luminescent white sprinkle among the green leaves and dark tree trunks of the forest.  There aren’t enough dogwoods so that one is always visible.  Instead, they are spaced out far enough apart to generate a minor, secret thrill or chill whenever one appears, often buried 100 or more yards in the woods, standing silent sentinel from behind dozens of other trees.  But only for a week or two more, and then this ethereal presence fades back into the indistinguishable mass of woodland greenery.

I was looking for dogwoods and thinking about them as I drove around today.  The words above started forming in my mind, and I wondered how they might work in a blog about Afghanistan.

Later, I went to a lecture.  The speaker told of a philosopher who claimed that history wasn’t a record of things past, it was the conditions out of which the future emerged.  The future, as it unfolds in real time before our eyes, appears to us as does the landscape through the windshield of a speeding car, with the past from which we have just driven omnipresent, should we look, in the rearview mirror.  The future can’t be without everything that happened in the past; in essence, the future is history made tangible and material.

This evening, as I piddled about in the backyard, the wife of the new couple next door came out and we said hello.  I live in an attached house on an Army post where I work as a teacher.  The quarters next to us are designed to accommodate a handicapped family member.  They had been empty for some time, but this week the couple had moved in, and this was the first time I had met either of them.  Soon, the husband came out.  Wounded, he was a double amputee below the knees as a result of a mine blast in Afghanistan.

Still hearty, still true, not afraid to talk about what had happened, determined not to be a victim in peace as he had been in war.  And… not clear at first, but realized by the both of us soon enough, a former student of mine, a good one, and from not so long ago, either.

And so we reap, and others reap, too, what we sow.

The prettiest of trees the dogwood now.


NOTE:  I snagged the picture above from a blog called 1 Heck of a Guy, which celebrates, among other things, the music of Leonard Cohen.  Seems appropriate, somehow, and we should give credit where credit is due:

2 Responses to “The Prettiest of Trees the Dogwood Now”

  1. andria816 Says:

    I love dogwoods, with their upward-facing blooms. If you’d told me Siegfried Sassoon wrote this, other than the mention of Afghanistan, I’d probably believe you.

  2. Peter Molin Says:

    Well thank you! The title is cribbed from a poem by AE Housman.

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