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Green Acre #374: Our Lady of the Busted Body

Deep in the Cavanaugh backyard jungle, Our Lady of the Busted Body—look hard, bottom left—stands watch (hard to do without a head) over the koi pond. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

IT IS SPRING, though not time yet for serious gardening. Despite the warmth of the sun, it’s too early to do much but mulch and prune and yank the dead this and that. One can only consider what will go where, when it’s time to plant, which is after the last frost date, which is, in Washington DC, around April 21. A good stretch away.

Doing the above doesn’t take a lot of time when you have just a few small patches of garden, like mine, and said garden is already filled with decades of established shrubbish, so there’s very little pondering one can do. 

This week, the tulips are poking up in the back yard, the ferns are looking lively, the cherry is budding out, and that’s about it. So the focus moves to ornaments, specifically one ornament, the concrete statue of a lady in a draped stone gown, standing by the pond, feet planted in moss, endlessly spewing a stream of water from a ewer, which splashes gently into the water.

My Prince brought her home several decades ago, puffed up at the deal he’d struck. Her head was knocked off so he got her cheap. He set the head at the hem of her robe, just until he could get around to fixing her. Really a minor job, he assured me. 

As things go around here, this did not happen. Instead, some years later, a raccoon or other night marauder, knocked her over, severing her torso from her waist. Assuring me that this too was a simple fix, he artistically rearranged her body parts, moving her head to one end of the pond and her chest to the ground beside her, nestled in ivy and the occasional small orchid. And so she remains.

Guests see Our Lady of the Busted Body and say, Why? My Prince says, I’m going to fix her, we have the pieces. I cackle gently in the background. 

Yes, we do have rude friends, which is why I like them. 

No, she is not to everyone’s taste; garden ornaments seldom are. Consider gnomes, plastic flamingoes, and those god-awful fairy gardens, which seem to be breathing their last, at last. 

Often, the first time you see something clever, a tipped-over pot spilling portulaca or alyssum, for instance, it’s a delight. But then you round the corner and see another and another and suddenly tipped pots are like mushrooms after a rain and the delight is gone. 

Rule of thumb: If you see it at Home Depot or the like, its charm has passed its sell-by date. 

No matter what you think of our half a woman and her disheveled parts, I doubt there’s another like her. 

She’s particularly delightful when we move out of the fairytale cottage garden mode we live in each spring—when the tulips burst open beneath the wings of the kwanzan cherry, branches laden with double pink frills of flowers, and the wisteria drapes the roofline of the garage. When the last frost arrives, out of the greenhouse lumber the elephant ears, the palms, the hibiscus, the bananas, the Bird of Paradise; plants and flowers that enjoy or at least tolerate the midsummer murk and occasional splotch of sun. Enter the jungle.

The lady makes me think of Greek or Roman ruins, like she’d eroded over centuries, not decades, and visiting her is a bit like playing Indiana Jones, like stumbling upon a secret place. 

Sit by the pond for a spell, listen to the splashing water, and daydream on.


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