by Mimi Hedl

There stands Our Lady of the Flowers, out in the rain. The wind has bowed her head. She looks melancholy and grateful. She’s stood in these gardens for over 30 years, watching the accumulated wealth of the gardens grow and change and surprise and delight her. She loves the moon flower growing over her body, covering her, embellishing her with fragrance, all summer long, and into the fall. Only she sees the luna moths at night who visit the moonflowers. Only she knows the bewick’s wren that nests in the thick sedges and asparagus ferns that grow up to her waist. She laughs when the head gardener discovers the nest in her fall clean-up. Our Lady enjoys the comings and goings all spring as the fledglings gain strength and leave the nest. She’ll miss them and all the flowers she blesses, hence the melancholy; but grateful for the memories as autumn leaves and winter begins to settle in.

Soon enough, however, the Ozark Witch Hazel will begin to bloom and the gardener will wander about, wondering where the orange fragrance comes from. Our Lady will smile because she knows the gardener now doesn’t take long to remember, “AHH, it’s the witch hazel!” and she’ll walk over to the shrubs and pick a bouquet for the house, admiring the diligent honey bees on warm days, gathering pollen for the brood, a rich orange pollen loaded on their hind legs. The first year the witch hazel bloomed, the gardener frantically walked around, trying to discover the source of the fragrance on a cold January day. Our Lady laughed until her head almost fell off. “Ahh…”

Our Lady begins to hunker down. The cold weather arrives later in the week. She hopes she still sees the gardener, if only briefly. She so enjoys it when the gardener rearranges her head or offers her a bouquet of any sort, a few kind words, a song. Anything to let Our Lady know the gardener hasn’t forgotten about her as her duties wane, but she maintains her post, waiting, waiting.our-lady-of-the-flowers-003