East Tennessee is blessed with four equal and beautiful seasons. Summer is a bit hot and humid but perfect for lazy days by the pool or lake and evenings filled with fireflies. Autumn is one of the great wonders of the natural world with the summer green mountains turning into layer upon layer of reds, yellows and oranges. The air is dry and clear and intoxicating. Winter is gray but just enough snow to make everything crystal and an excuse for a day by the fire but the next day the snow is gone and the world gets back to being busy. But nothing is quite as glorious as Spring. That is when for a few truly magical weeks my world turns to an enchanted fairy land.
Knoxville is know for particularly special trees called dogwoods, pink or white, the blooms have four petals with small notches on each petal. Native to this part of the world the landscape is dotted with the living lace of these trees.
Dogwoods are slow growing and don’t get very large. So they stay close to the ground and mingle underneath the taller oaks, maples and pines. At the same time, the redbuds bloom interspersing the pink and white dogwoods with bright purple. The pure white Bradford pear trees bloom first along with the cherry trees. Denso is a Japanese auto parts manufacturer that has a presence here. With that comes a large Japanese community who are very active in the local life. Thanks to them we have a grove of cherry trees in a park that takes my breath away when I walk under the pink branches. Young Japanese mothers bring their children for a picnic in the pink grove for the cherry trees are sacred in the hearts of people so far from their ancestral home. When Japan sent cherry trees to the US as a gift, the US gifted dogwoods to Japan.
A few days ago I took my mother on a drive on a local seasonal route called the Dogwood Trail. Pink lines and arrows guide the way in and around beautiful neighborhoods. My favorite trail is through an older affluent neighborhood that has dogwoods old enough to be large. Every few feet on this many mile route there is a blooming tree or flaming azalea bush or row of tulips. At this moment, there is no prettier place on earth. My mother says it “gives me a lift” to see so much beauty amongst perfect lawns leading to even more perfect homes with stone fronts, slate roofs, grand columns and even a turret or two. The beauty is almost too much to bear and I know for that moment I’m in heaven.
Last summer Hamilton and I planted three small dogwoods in our front yard, gifts from friends in memory of our fathers. I watered them daily so they would make it through the hot summer and hoped they would be OK in the snow. Small but growing, our special trees have now flowered and show signs of new growth. Everyday I go to my car and see these special memory trees, homage to great men, with deep spiritual lives. I can’t think of a better tribute.