There are lots of bits of ‘sculpture’ stuff in the garden. In high summer they are pretty well hidden but at this time of the year they start to show themselves. Three very small and hardly noticeable gnomes (my secret garden vice); a modern representation of a seated woman resting her head on her hand; a small stone figure of a woodnymph, arms clasping her knees, gazing into a circular bowl of water, (the woodnymph figure is by Christine Baxter, a local artist). And then there is the “What is THAT?” – a two feet high shining white figure of ‘Our Lady of Grace’ – you can see her in the header picture above. We refer to her with teasing familiarity as ‘the BVM’.
I feel that this requires an explanation. Neither Mr Optimistic Gardener or I are religious people. We see something greater than ourselves in the wonders of the natural world, but we pursue no organised religion or particular faith. Three years ago Mr OG needed quadruple cardiac bypass surgery. During the 2 weeks he was hospitalised waiting for the first available cardiac bed, a complaint of persistent abdominal pain led to a CT scan and the discovery of a large tumour on his kidney. Stunned as we were by the need for cardiac bypass surgery, it was nothing compared to the shock as the consultant told us it was renal cancer, not very treatable and needing urgent removal. So, 8 weeks after the bypass Mr OG was back in surgery having a total nephrectomy (kidney removal) and staging of the tumour.
So far so grim. Meanwhile, we were being supported by family and friends, and in particular an old and dear friend whose partner is a committed, practising Roman Catholic. The partner sent rosaries (glow-in-the-dark for sleepless nights), prayer cards, had mass said in his local cathedral. We were grateful for his thoughtfulness but saw it as no more than the kindness of a friend. He arranged for Mr OG to be included in the prayer lists in a number of parishes, we were sent medallions of St Benedict (apparently the patron saint of kidney health), holy water from Lourdes, a little plaster ornament of Our Lady of Walsingham, even prayers at St Peter’s in Rome. The partner was working hard to help us in the best way he knew how.
Fastforward to the post-surgery meeting with the renal consultant. “Prepare yourselves for another shock”… oh no – inoperable? widespread? won’t respond to chemo?… “Your kidney cancer isn’t cancer. It looks like cancer and it presented like cancer and everything I know about this disease led me to believe it was cancer. But it’s not. Histology says it’s a very large benign tumour which mimics renal cancer.” I’d say stunned silence, but it was just ‘stunned’ really. Open-mouthed, unable to speak, blubbering gibberish stunned.
Now, we don’t know whether it was coincidence, a mistake by the expert, or the power of prayer. And we don’t care. But when the BVM figures appeared at the garden centre, we were there like rats up a drainpipe. She’s kitsch, she raises eyebrows from everyone who visits, she’s so not us, but she’s in the garden – and we’re very fond of her.
The Optimistic Gardener