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On Dogwoods, Aging and Beauty

If you wonder why I put this picture of our sole Dogwood tree in today’s post I’ll explain.  It has to do with my perception of beauty as I grow older and my feelings about why my perception has changed. 

Though not much to look at this scraggly lone Dogwood in our backyard is my favorite tree in the yard. I wait anxiously each spring to see how it will bloom, if a late frost will harm it and how its general health seems to be.  I tenderly trim it in the fall to stem the lankiness and promote fuller growth. 

Whatever the reason, I took to this Dogwood from the first. I wanted this tree to prosper and fill out, but in the 2 years we’ve been here it just seems to get by with minimal growth. Last spring we had a late frost and the blossoms were killed before they had much time to show. This year (as the photo shows) the tree has not bloomed on the higher branches yet. I remain hopeful it will eventually do so.

This speaks to my feelings about beauty, love and aging. It has become apparent to me that my idea of what is beautiful or what has beauty has changed as I’ve aged. I would certainly not have cared for this tree 20 years ago. Instead I would have focused on the fully blooming crab apple out front or the wild cherry tree that has already finished its blooming for the year.  My preference for It has to do with both the fragility of the Dogwood and the elegance of its sparse lines.

While the complex beauty of hundreds of blossoms appeals to many, my older eye is attracted to the rarity of blooms on the skinny Dogwood.  There is something to be said for developing a discerning eye. It allows you to appreciate what others miss. This has the effect of  making your world and your life richer. This simple ability to appreciate something as trivial as the skimpy flowering of a Dogwood tree can bring depth and context to a life that may be slowing down in other areas.

To date I have not aged gracefully. Instead I’ve fought it every step of the way.  Now, today, I see in my respect for the beauty of the Dogwood a start to that elusive grace. I begin to understand that there are distinct advantages to growing older if I will only look for them and accept them. My goal is to do just that.

One great thing that has happened to me is the understanding that I love my wife more today than when we we met. In spite of the difference in our relationship, (which I had mistakenly thought a sign of diminished love) I now understand that what my marriage has developed into has the grace and beauty of my favorite Dogwood tree.

So if there are fewer blossoms on the tree of our marriage the ones that are there are much more significant than the profusion of blooms in our youth. It has taken me some time to come to this understanding. I am thankful my spouse has been patient enough with me to allow me to reach this revelation on my own. She has often spoken about growing old together; now I begin to comprehend the beauty and grace in that process.

It has allowed me to see the beauty in our life, our marriage and each other. 




There have been times in my life when my chief emotion seemed to be Melancholy. My senior year in high school and during my time in Memphis while going to tech school for the Marines are but a couple of those periods of depression. I have been a moody prick for some periods of time throughout my life .

I credit my wife of many years, Vicki, for making my existence so rich and full that these times of moodiness have been much fewer and much less frequent since our marriage. In addition, I believe my faith has helped me to understand that I’m not alone or without spiritual resources.

That being said; today is one of those days when I find myself slipping into the murky and familiar waters of melancholy. It rained this morning (God we need it) and the sky remains cloudy and the atmosphere gloomy. A perfect day to get into a real “Funk” and get in touch with my innately tortured soul.

May of this year will mark the third anniversary of my Mother’s death and also the third year since I put our dog Missy to sleep. I say I put her to sleep because it was my decision and I went into the room with her when they did the procedure. (Shit I hate that term) I held her and watched the light go out of her eyes as she peacefully died. Then I broke down and cried like a baby. To this day I cannot recall that time without a mixture of sadness, guilt and remorse at the loss of our constant companion of over 15 years. Missy was a small dog (mixed breed of Shih tzu and Lhasa Apso) with a sweet crooked grin and a loving demeanor. The sedative given to her before the death drug was administered had made her already glassy eyes (from cataracts) seem more liquid and indefinite. Attached to her front leg was an intravenous line wrapped in white bandage strips. It was if I was comforting a wounded friend instead of killing her.

Just a few weeks earlier that month we got the call on a Saturday morning from the nursing home just blocks from our house that my Mom had died before the ambulance could even be called. We threw on some clothes and went to find Mom dead and alone in what then seemed to me to be the cold and sterile environment of her room. We stayed with her till the Mortuary van came to take her to the funeral home. I helped the attendant wrap my Mom up in sheets and put her in the van. I will not ever be able to forget the sight of her in death or the feelings associated with that day. Her pallor was yellow tinged and waxen. The expression on her face seemed to me a mixture of surprise and minor pain. It did not look as if she’d suffered but that she was still thinking about living even in death.

In some ways Vicki and I were emotionally numb that morning. We had just completed bringing Mom to Phoenix (at her request), finding her a good home, (she needed 24 hour care) and making her as comfortable as possible. We were just 10 minutes from her and though she had been diagnosed as terminal, we expected a few months or weeks at least before she passed away. In fact in was only 6 days after we moved her from Selma, Alabama to Phoenix, Arizona before she was gone.

Our hearts and our wills were broken by the sheer irony of the situation.

In response to these sad and tragic events in my life I wrote the following songs. “I said Goodbye” was written about our pet Missy and “Now that you’re Gone” was inspired by the death of my Mother and the realization that I was all that was left of my parent’s family.

I place them here for your perusal and comment.



I said Goodbye to an Old Friend Today

I cried like a baby as she slipped Away

No one had told me that I’d feel this way

When I said Goodbye to an Old Friend Today

Verse 2

We’d been fast friends for the last 15 years

I think I saw her most every day

Now I’m not able to hold back my tears

After saying Goodbye to my Old Friend Today


I know the act of loving is not without it’s cost

The payment is the ending and the pain of the loss

But I can’t stop trying to feel this love I feel

Maybe that’s why I’m crying from knowing that it’s real

 Now I’m sad and wondering was the time too soon

But it was my decision and I’m left with just this tune

I guess this is my life I guess there’s nothing left to say

That’s why I said Goodbye to my Old Friend Today


I said Goodbye to an Old Friend today

 I cried like a baby as she slipped Away



 Now that you’re gone I feel so empty

Now that you’re gone I just don’t know what to do

Now that you’re gone I feel so empty Oh how I miss you

How I miss you

Verse 2

Now that you’re gone I feel so lonely

Now that you’re gone I feel so Blue

Now that you’re gone I feel so lonely Oh how I miss you

How I miss you


If I’d had my way we would have had more time together

To get to know each other all over again

But the Good Lords plans intervened and our time came to an end

So here I am without you

Verse 3

Now that you’re gone I feel disconnected

Now that you’re gone Who do I belong to

Now that you’re gone I’m disconnected Oh how I miss you

How I miss you







The 50th Anniversary of the Peace Symbol


Today fifty years ago graphic designer Gerald Holtom unveiled his creation at a Ban the Bomb rally in Great Britain. This design contains symbols used in Semaphore (flag code) for N and D standing for “Nuclear Disarmament.”

It has grown to mean much more or much less (according to how you view it) in the succeeding years.

During the 60s and Viet Nam it was much in evidence and has  had something of a rebirth during our present ill-advised conflict in Iraq. I watched a video today of a human Peace Symbol done in New York in honor of the 50th Anniversary.

For me the symbol will always remind me of those turbulent and yet wonderful times from the year I got back from Nam till the early 70s. I had done my bit for the good ole USA and wanted to reap some of the benefits of our free and open society. I missed out on Woodstock but wanted to have that same feeling take place in my life.

My buddy Vince and I had an apartment a couple of blocks from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg when we were stationed at Quantico in 1970 and the first quarter of 1971. We did our best to live the Hippie lifestyle when not at work on the Marine Corps Base.

It certainly wasn’t any Woodstock experience, but it was definitely an Experience. We both had girlfriends from the college, though my first one was a local and my second dropped out to live with me. She ended up my first wife and to this day can’t stand the sight of me or the mention of my name. I’m sure she has ample reason. When we got married I was still a kid in spite of or perhaps because of 4 years in the Marines.

Since the 70s I haven’t given much thought to the Peace Symbol; not until Iraq. In 2003 before we went in the memories of Viet Nam and how messed up it was started to return. People advised against nation building and pre-emptive invasion. Nothing deterred the “Decider and Head Liar” from his course. It’s as though he and his advisors slept through a major portion of our recent history or were just arrogant enough to ignore it.

Funny how a regular guy like me can remember the lessons of Viet Nam and the President and his cabinet can’t!

Yes, the Peace Symbol brings back many memories, I just wish it would bring more Peace.