A CHRISTMAS GIFT for OUR LADY of MYSTERY
The first time we see her she stands alone surrounded by green grass growing straw-colored and crisp with autumn’s approaching. “Oh, look!” I tell my husband David, “Did you see that little lady over there?”
As with every Sunday we’re out for a family adventure, beginning with a drive down Baker Boulevard on our way to brunch in Joplin and afterwards on to our weekly walk-about at George Washington Carver Monument Park outside of Diamond, Missouri.
Many “excitements” will appear as we turn on Macon Street then jig and jog on the county roads that lead us to and over Center Creek. There on the bridge we always stop and look and listen. Until recently we frequently saw a great blue heron fishing for breakfast alone or with his mate. Though the herons seem to have flown south for the winter, the resident Kingfisher still makes a reliable fly-by keeping close to the bank and declaring his presence with a rattling call.
What a plethora of pleasing sights are ours on any Sunday! Before and after the creek we can always count on seeing cows in an abundant assortment of sizes, shapes and tints. For sure we’ll see horses and a donkey or two or three.
On one trip we saw a rafter of turkey hens scurrying away through a wooded understory and a coyote casually strolling across an open pasture. Another Sunday, while the puppies barked their delight, six very young deer frolicked on the roadside before crossing over in front of us. Further down the road we find long-horned cattle and a bunch of goats our working-dog Aussie longs to herd. In a short half day trip we see a menagerie of creatures sufficiently diverse to fill the Christ child’s stable for at least two or more nativity visits.
This Sunday’s sighting of the little lady is a splendid, unexpected precursor to all the fauna that follow. To my question “Did you see that little lady over there?” David, always eager for a new discovery, replies, “I missed her. Shall we go back?” “Yes, please!” is my happy response.
Making a quick turnaround we retrace our way to Chestnut Street. Passing through the wrought iron and Carthage marble entrance to Park Cemetery, we drive down a faint, less traveled tract leading in the direction of the little lady who’s beckoned for our attention.
Reverently we step lightly among graves as we walk down the hill to greet the enchanting wee woman. She’s less than three feet tall, hewn from granite now beautifully patinaed by golden lichens and the passing of time. Wearing a one shouldered tunic, beneath a flowing lock of long hair, her left hand held over her heart modestly covers her bare breast. Our Lady’s right hand rests on the top of what at first glance appears to be a miner’s pick. Closer looking tells us the implement is an anchor with a prong broken off, possibly by a mowing machine. Searching for an inscription on this miniature monument, we find none. Perhaps an engraved base beneath this stone figure has long since sunken below the soil line.
Whose grave does Our Lady mark? Who can she be? Our imaginative artist minds begin to create and spin a story as though to unravel Our Lady’s mysteries. Might she be the wife of a sailor lost at sea? Intrigued with her aura of the unknown, we’re compelled to make return visits on our Sunday outings. Her magnetism is undeniable. Is she enchanting us? For sure we are adopting her.
On our most recent visit we present Our Lady with our gift of a festive Christmas crown made just for her. To a lovely small wreath of pinecone adorned faux greenery, I added a bow with streamers of scarlet woven threads. David attached a delicate band to go beneath Our Lady’s chin and fit her crown securely through the coming weeks of rain and wind and weather. Today Our Lady of Mystery is a tiny stanchion of loveliness as she stands serenely in Park Cemetery surrounded by her silent city filled with many silent mysteries.
In coming days I’ll focus on practicing due diligence to solve the questions of Our Lady’s identity and history. In next week’s Art Notes I’ll share with you all that I discover.
For now, personally and on behalf of artCentral’s board of directors, I wish you and yours a most blessed midwinter. May beauty and pleasure and satisfaction fill your heart and your home through the magical celebrations before us. May your days be merry and bright. May your nights be peaceful and quiet.