For ten years, we have kept a Mary Garden tucked in a corner of our front yard. It began as a labor of love to help me recover from the death of my mother who died 18 months after my father. Through our sweat and wrenched muscles, we broke through the hardened earth, carried the clay and piled yards of fresh soil into the crevasse. My husband and son hunted our property for rocks to stack into the shape of a small grotto and we shopped together for a state of Our Blessed Virgin Mary.
Carefully, I chose plants to honor her life such as:
“Picture her eyes (Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla). Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby’s Breath), her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes (Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary’s humility (Violet), the fruitful virgin (Strawberry), Mary’s queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary’s Flower of God (English Daisy), Mary’s glory (Saint John’s Wort), and Our Lady’s Faith (Veronica).
Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower (Poinsettia), Lady’s Bedstraw (Dianthus – Mary used bedstraw to prepare a bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt (Fig Tree – legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during their flight into Egypt), Our Lady’s Tears (Lily of the Valley – tiny white nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady’s Tresses (Asparagus Fern – legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary, in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved), Mary’s Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta – Plantation Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption).”
I planted what I could find around our area in Wisconsin and prayed as my fingers worked the soil, and while weeding, watering and tending the spent blooms. Hail Mary! Full of Grace. The Lord is with thee……..Through this garden, I wept for the loss of my earthly mother, Bonnie Rose and wept for the relationship I did not yet have with my Blessed Mother.
Along the way, and through the years, as the tears began to dry for loss of my mother, Mary emerged, shining, as my Eternal Mother, showering me with comfort and love. Each day, those precious moments in the garden offered me clandestine time with Mary; to ask for her guidance, be with me and watch over us. Even ten years later, the garden continues to serve as sacred space for me. Mary is there. She envelopes me with her beautiful Mantel and allows me to cry without reproach. She knows my inmost secrets, desires, longings and each of my mistakes; and continues to love me without question.
This year is the most bittersweet of all as we are forced to sell our beloved home–our sacred space. The setting where we opened this space to family, friends and strangers to sit at our table, to hold their hands, to listen, cry and pray over a myriad of issues.
Because my heart is heavy, the Mary Garden reflects my simple gift back to the wildlife on our property. Each native member of the wild kingdom has enjoyed our property as their safe haven–we house them, feed them, watch and love them. So, in lieu of specially chosen plants, seeds were planted to give the hummingbirds and butterflies a delightful space of their own–their own sense of the Sacred. The growth is slow, but steady–I am anxious, but the butterflies and hummingbirds are patient to wait until the harvest is ready.
I have much to learn from our wildlife.
It was and continues to be difficult to traverse this life without my mother, Bonnie–but through her passing, I began to rely on my Heavenly Mother and develop a relationship that I never realized I needed so much.
Incredibly, while cultivating my garden, Mary cultivated a relationship with me. Thanks be to God.
I miss you Mom and think of you every single day–I always enjoyed planting flowers with you!