was a woman who lived in a cottage on the edge of a small town. She loved the cottage very much but her pride and
joy was her wonderful garden, which stretched out in front of the house in a glorious array of color and scent.
The woman had lovingly spent many years tending to the flowers and small flowering shrubs that now graced her yard
with such splendor. She had watered them when the rain stayed away and had nourished them when the ground was cruel
and now they prospered handsomely. Every day the woman walked the rows examining new buds, plucking dead leaves
and attending to the needs of any plant that required special attention.
One day as she strolled serenely along a row of tiny white flowers with perfect
round petals, brimming with pride and satisfaction, she was suddenly startled to notice that one of the blooms
was stricken with disease. Its delicate petals bore horrid brown spots and the white had turned a sickly yellow.
Its head bowed toward the ground almost shamefully amidst its upright companions.
“Oh no!” The woman gasped as she stooped to look more closely at the ailing flower.
“You poor little thing, let’s have you out of there.”
And she reached into the apron tied around her waist which was filled with garden
tools and retrieved a small trowel. Deftly, swiftly, the woman dug around the sick little plant and taking care
to remove a generous clod of earth, pulled up the flower, cradling it in both hands. She raced to the potting shed
at the end of the garden and selected a small clay pot. Reaching into a sack of fresh clean earth, she then sprinkled
some into the bottom of the pot and gently laid the flower into it, pressing gingerly around its stem. The woman
watered the pot just a little and carried the plant inside where she could keep a close watch on its progress and
perhaps isolate the cause of the disease.
And sure enough, in time, as the woman cared for the little flower, its head lifted,
its complexion cleared and it was restored to its former purity. But she was none the wiser as to the source of
the blight, which had afflicted her tender charge. ‘Never mind,’ thought the woman, ‘you’re all better now. I can
return you to the garden to be with your friends.’
And for a while the flowers flourished as before. Until one day, again the woman
came across one of the others displaying similar signs of ill-health. The woman however, knew what to do and just
as she had done before, she removed the flower, potted it and took it inside to take pride of place on the window
ledge. After much care and attention, the plant was well again and returned to the garden once more.
This happened a third time, again the woman was mystified as to the cause of the
affliction but adhered to the established ritual and the plant was healed and returned.
Then one afternoon the woman was taken aback in horror by a yellowish mass of sickening
stems, drooped in despair, heads laid down on the gray earth in surrender to the strange disease. There was only
one thing for it. In resignation, she grasped the trowel resolutely and dug up the sickly flowers one by one, thanking
each for the pleasure they had given her in happier times. She gathered up the remains and walked somewhat solemnly,
but with assurance, down to the end of the garden and buried them in the heap behind the potting shed, laying them
to rest once and for all.
The next day she replaced the earth in the vacant plot and sprinkled new seeds
on the ground where the others had died so suddenly. And in time, with nourishment and love, the woman was delighted,
first, by fledgling buds and later, a picture of radiant blood red star shaped petals growing on sturdy stems and
waving to her in the gentle breeze.