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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.