The other day, I was outside with my mother when she pulled down a branch of a tree. She asked if I ever heard the story of the dogwood. When I said no, she said:
According to a legend from 2000 years ago, dogwood trees would grow as large as great oaks. Its wood was so strong that it was used by the Romans to build the cross for the crucifixion of Jesus. When Jesus sensed the tree’s distress of being used for something so cruel he whispered, “Because of your pity for my suffering, never again will a dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for such a fate. It shall be slender with twisted branches. The blossoms will have four petals in the form of a cross. The outer petal edge will be slit and their edges slightly browned. In the center will be crown of thorns.”
After my mother finished her story I realized – pump the brakes – this is a moment of beauty and its catalyst came from a story!
The dogwood tree has been outside my house for over 30 years. I always thought it was a pretty tree, but I never “braked for beauty” there. Storytelling brought a new depth of understanding to an everyday sight and created that moment of beauty for me. I even started to notice dogwood trees EVERYWHERE! Dogwood trees that (most likely) had always been there, but I had never noticed or been able to identify (petals, slits, “crown of thorns” – botany level 1). I had been walking around with my eyes half opened and never realized it.
As silly as it sounds, I believe in magic. Not “hocus pocus” magic, but magic that transforms the world around you into something romantic – something out of a storybook. It is a gift given to us through legends, myths, and folklore. Some people may call it daydreaming or (less eloquently) “not in touch with reality”. However, the story exists whether or not a person knows it or cares to repeat it. I choose to incorporate stories into my day because it makes the world more interesting. That DOES make it a part of my reality. Some people see “just a tree”, while I get to see something more. It is amazing that the more you know (from folklore all the way to physics), the more interesting (or beautiful) your surroundings become.
Side note: Myths, folklore, and legends (aka storytelling) are a popular component of any culture/religion. This story happened to be Christian based, but I am also familiar with a number of Judaic, Islamic, and Native American tales. The stories are meant to serve as a lesson or give meaning to the world around us and I am excited to share more folklore from a multitude of cultures and sources!