For the past three weeks, I have been repeatedly distracted by the stunning redbud tree that stands in the the corner of my backyard like a young ballerina en pointe. With her flower-laden arms extending gracefully in every direction, she beckons me each day to some kind of communion, some kind of intimate conversation that I have been avoiding. She is a teacher of sorts, one of exquisite beauty and radiance, but I have been slow to receive her lessons.
Redbud trees are often called Judas trees, because of the thread-bare legend that one of their ancestors provided the limb from which Judas Escariot hanged himself after his alleged betrayal of Jesus. The Judas connection, however, may be somewhat apocryphal. Indeed, many believe that the name "Judas tree" was originally "Judeas tree," a simple reflection of the ancient Judean landscape where the species prospered.
Names can be a burden, of course, and some insist upon calling the redbud "the tree of lost souls." For me, however, it is more like a tree of found souls, a tree that offers wisdom about the fragility of life. In a winter that has split and torn assunder many of the evergreens, whose thick foliage attempted to resist the heavy snow, this elegant little redbud, in her denuded winter form, has come through unscathed. "Resist little and travel lightly," she seems to be saying,"it may be critical to your survival."