The Dogwood


Most of us have a favorite tree. Although many other trees rise up and call to me: tupelo, black birch, white oak, tamarack, ironwood... I'll have to sing of only one this snowy evening.

The Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida
When I was a child, a wild dogwood grew across the driveway from my bedroom window. Its white blooms greeted me on the grumpiest of days.


Nearby, a field was returning to forest by way of the dogwood. Headphones glued to my ears, I walked daily the old farm road through tall, scratchy grasses towards the dogwoods.
The road ended behind the old fieldstone building that was once the community center for the paper mill.

I passed under a telephone pole swamped by Virginia creeper that looked like a crucifix with a wig. Ahead were mysterious stone buildings, supposedly a monastery, shrouded by Norway spruces.

To the right,
a cinder block building with only graffiti, two walls and a roof. The outline of an apple and "Burt is Fat" was spray painted on the side of the water tower (who climbed up that?). Cans and bottles piled in the thickets.

These signs were not accompanied by the sound of footfalls. This place was mine.

I never saw another person here. The teenagers who had been here probably had grown up and moved away. I was thankful for what they left behind. It was an archaeological site for me. It was touched by danger, but held the promise of solitude.

The dogwoods played a bit role then.

When I visit my parents, we often walk the farm road. We exclaim over the beauty of the dogwoods. The cinder block building is gone, the paper mill a Superfund site, the water tower painted, beer cans lost in leaves and honeysuckle vines, nothing distracts us from the dogwoods.