The Old Paths: Springtime rambling

By Leslie Bray Brewer - Special to The Stokes News

As we drove to Walnut Cove this week for our “Taco Tuesday” fix at El Cabo, we saw piles of snow in Danbury’s ditches. “Waiting around for more snow,” my hubster quoted the old superstition in an ominous tone. “Nah,” I disagreed. “I believe we’re finally done with winter.” I know most of y’all are hoping I’m right. It’s been a crazy late winter/early spring, hasn’t it? I was taking pictures of daffodils and saucer magnolia blooms in February, then making snow cream in late March.

I don’t mind warm weather in February or snow in March, but the downside of this last go-round of winter weather was how it decimated many of the Bradford Pear trees in our area. Riding down the road on Tuesday, I finally quit counting how many of those trees were either lying flat in someone’s yard or at least minus a few branches.

I heard someone say that when the sap rises in the spring, the branches are heavier and more subject to breakage when weighted down by snow, especially when the spring blossoms add even more bulk. But I checked with an expert who said the sap never technically goes down (my apologies to my beloved former principal, Vernon Kimbro, whose “sap is rising” speech was a highlight of my high school springs).

Instead, the foods and liquids in trees experience increased circulation in the spring and are carried from their storage places in the trunk and inner branches to the outer branches and buds. Makes sense that the outer branches are heavier and thus more fragile when wet snows strike late in spring.

My hubster, who was working on a horticulture degree in college before pursuing another career path, says the Bradford Pear branches grow more vertically than other trees’ branches. This makes their branches weaker than those which grow at more of an angle toward the horizontal plane. (See? We do use that geometry we learned back in the day—acute, right and obtuse angles and such!)

Despite the weaker branches and fishy smell of the Bradford Pear blossoms, I still savor the white spring blooms AND reddish fall foliage of these popular trees. But since I don’t write a gardening column, I’d better mosey on to other subjects.

By the time you read this spring-themed column, it will be Maundy Thursday. Despite the fact that I grew up in the traditional Christian church world, I had no idea what “maundy” meant until I availed my modern self of Google this very spring.

Google has enlightened me to believe that “maundy” likely came from an Anglicized form of the Latin “mandatum” which means “command.” This stems from the fact that Jesus commanded His disciples to love and serve one another at the Last Supper (on a Thursday, most churches believe) as He washed their feet.

Some scholars disagree, arguing that the King of England traditionally gave “maundsor” baskets or purses of money to the poor on Holy Thursday. “Maundy,” in that sense, came from the Latin word “mendicare,” which has to do with begging. The English borrowed that Latin word which eventually morphed into “maund” which meant “to beg.”

Either way, “Maundy Thursday” it has become—followed by “Good Friday.”

Now I will admit that as a child brought up to believe that Christ was crucified on Good Friday, I was puzzled as to why that day was called “good.” The Oxford English Dictionary says the word “good” was used to designate a day on which a holy ritual of the church took place.

Some Catholic sources elaborate by saying that “good” here means God blessed us with something good by showing His great love for us on that day. Other scholars believe it was once called “God’s Friday” which was corrupted into “Good Friday.”

We may never know the real reason for the usage of these terms. I hate when we lose such knowledge. It’s sort of like those old tintype photos we find in our deceased relatives’ belongings; we have no idea who these people are unless someone wrote on the back of the pictures. I so wish I could go back in time with Great-Grandma Priddy or Grandma Bray and have them identify the now-forever-anonymous people in the old photographs.

What a great lead-in for me to climb back up onto my soapbox where I often urge younger people to treasure the older citizens while we have them with us. I worry that kids today are too obsessed with Smartphone usage and its siren songs of Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social media time-suckers there are out there in the technological black hole. I’m afraid our youth will not appropriately value real human interaction with older folks who still appreciate face-to-face talks.

Then again, that may not be a priority for modern civilization. When I realized my five children don’t even read my newspaper columns, I told them that one day when I’m gone, I bet they’ll go back and sentimentally read what their mommy wrote (often about THEM!). They sort of shrugged and said, “Eh, probably not.”

Perhaps some of us are just born to be old souls and to appreciate the old paths. I pray there will always be some in every generation who carry on the traditions of preserving history like Stokes County historians Bob Carroll, Chad Tucker, Kyle Berrier, and yes, even yours truly. Accurately transmitting history does matter, and we need to train up youth who will commit to doing that, lest modern society continue to be hornswoggled by fake news and/or whitewashed history.

Now in about 1000 words, we have gone from botanical lessons to Easter etymology to the traps of too much technology. The moral of this story? Let’s prune our Bradford Pear trees, write on the backs of photographs and talk to senior citizens. More importantly, may we all learn the lesson of Maundy Thursday (serving in love), ponder the meaning of Good Friday (the sacrifice of love) and rejoice in the glory of Resurrection Sunday (the victory of love)!

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at Her blog is at

By Leslie Bray Brewer

Special to The Stokes News