Lives of Sun and Shadow

May 15, 2013


One name for so many seasons: magnolia season, daffodil season, tulip season, and, now, dogwood season.

Each day, something is lost and some new beauty is born.


pink dogwood2


I could never pick a favorite spring season (and I haven’t even mentioned the lilacs), but I do know what it is I love about the dogwoods: they light up the shadows.

Here, from where I sit at my desk, I can see a thick, dark line of trees along the fence. It might look foreboding except that there is a lacy pink-and-white dogwood dancing on the edge of the darkness.

It is so pretty I have wasted more than a bit of my writing time googling hammock.


pink dogwood1


On Mother’s Day, I went for a drive. Alone. Because the irony of Mother’s Day is that I lose all patience for even the usual tasks of motherhood. Like wrangling four kids into carseats and listening to them bicker.

Just down the street from our house is a church like something from a child’s picture book. It is almost perfectly square and has a tall white steeple.

Of course, the child’s picture book never shows the tacky roadside notice board. This one said: We know life is hard. You are not alone.

I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated anything spelled out on one of those yellow plastic signs. Even the sentiments with which I agree bother me with their cheesy puns or too-cute rhymes.

But this one … Well, honesty is eloquent. Love sings.

I have nothing against John 3:16, but these may be the very best words for a churchyard sign.

I’m tempted to write them on my hand. Life is hard, but I am not alone. I think these words, and remembering that they apply to me and to everyone I meet, might help me respond to life with more gentleness. More compassion.


flowers in my lap


Life can be hard. It can be hard even on the good days, the days we feel at home, the days in which thank you, thank you tumbles easily from our lips.

Our lives are edged with shadow.

I write my own thank yous out in this space. Thank you for my family. Thank you for my home. Thank you for bringing me out of the wilderness and into this good, green land.

But we all live with shadows, whether we are walking through a wilderness or not.

Here is where you might expect me to point to those dogwoods and say something about silver linings or unexpected blessings.

I refuse to do that.

I think we sometimes act as if truth isn’t worthwhile unless it can be summed up in one sentence or organized into five lessons or bound up with bullet points.

I am a writer, I love words, but I know that words – more often than not – fail us.

Sometimes the only true thing is to say as little as possible. Perhaps, to say only this:

“Look! Do you see? A dogwood tree like pale pink lace dancing at the edge of darkness.”



  1. kelli

    Oh! You wrote a post just for me! 😉
    I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to plant a Dogwood in the sun blazing middle of a Florida front yard, but when I saw those flowers, I laughed. It was so clearly the Lord reminding me, “I know you feel out of place and life has been hard, but I’m here. And I’m all you need.”

    • Christie Purifoy

      Such messages in those pretty petals! Who would have thought?

  2. Em Climaco

    I love it! Dogwood blooms make me think of sleeping ghosts — the way they lie there all wispy and horizontal.
    I also feel the pressure to head straight to the “moral of the story,” sometimes just making one up for the sake of convenience. I love William Carlos Williams: “These things astonish me beyond words!” Sometimes it’s okay just to relax in the wordlessness/astonishment.
    Your writing is lovely.

    • Christie Purifoy

      Sleeping ghosts! Yes, so true. I’ve always been a fan of ghost stories.
      And if Williams, a master of observing rather than explaining, could be astonished beyond words, then I suppose it’s a good thing. Nothing for a writer to be frightened of (or feel guilty about).
      Thank you, Em. 🙂

  3. ev

    Your photography is stunning. And your words to match. Thank you for sharing.

    • Christie Purifoy

      Thank you! My sister is the photographer – I’m so glad I get to illustrate my stories with her beautiful images.


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