By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
A couple of days prior to Easter, I noticed that the many flowering dogwood trees along the route of my regular walk had shed their petals. Such shedding was helped quickly along by recent spring thunderstorms complete with gusty winds.
Since that day was Good Friday, I thought about the old oft-heard legend of each dogwood flower’s four petals reflecting Christ’s wounds from the crown of thorns and the nails of the cross.
At the end of each petal is a dark spot in which the immediate petal area surrounding it appears to have shrunk and withered around that seemingly dead point. That same mark on two opposing petals recalls the nails in Christ’s hands. The mark of another petal stands for the feet-piercing nails, and the remaining petal spot signifies the wound from the nail-like scratches of the crown of thorns upon his brow.
The sidewalk path of my daily walk was filled with this legend-bound litter, as were also the areas of adjacent yards and streets.
“Nail-print” petals had been raked into miniature mounds within the grass by the wind. Many of those petals on the sidewalk and entrance steps of homes had been pressed like flowers in a book, only in these cases, the weight carried by walking feet was the agent of the pressing.
Those petals which had been carried to the gray-black asphalt of the streets were flattened to such an extent by the weight of passing vehicles that they now had the appearance of errant dripped spots of paint left by the road crew on their most recent repainting of the road lines.
Some of the dogwood petals had been caught up in other cast-off floral litter in the form of the dried tassels of miniature flowers from other trees in bloom. The spring rains, streaming along the edge of the curb, had deposited the tassels and petals in clumps before drying up, leaving them to appear as seaweed and shells on a beach, stranded at low tide.
Some of the yards had been mowed since those “nail-print” petals had fallen, turning the petals into confetti, but in many of those shredded bits, an intact “nail print” could still be seen.
The color in the petals from the pink dogwoods had faded, with their being only a barely discernable trace of pink, analogous to what the science of forensics tells us: that spilled blood can never be totally wiped away in a vain attempt to effect the appearance of its never having been spilled, minute traces always remaining.
The dogwood petals littered the lawns of churches, businesses and homes along my path. In spite of the sacred nature of the legend of the dogwood petals still being fresh in my mind, these petals seemed to not be out of place, even when lying in secular settings.
After my walk, I had performed a vocal solo at my church’s Good Friday service. Later that day, I went to my workplace. After awhile, I saw something on the office’s carpeted floor which looked like a small piece of paper, or one of those little circular pieces of plastic which sometimes drop into plastic grocery bags when the bags are taken from their dispensing rack at the end of the grocery store’s checkout counter. These little pieces of plastic travel home with us and are discovered when we are putting up the groceries. Upon closer inspection of what I thought to be a nickel-sized piece of plastic, I saw the “nail print” and realized that it was instead, a dogwood petal which I had evidently tracked into the office on the bottom of my shoe.
Just like the multitude of such petals outside, which seemed to belong to wherever they had fallen, whether in places sacred or secular, such was the case with this single “nail-print” petal which had travelled inside with me on such a day.
By Mack Williams