Dew-Weighted Roses

In a convent high in the mountains, where the stars hang barely out of reach and the wind sings stories of frozen songbirds and silvered firs, a sister-of-the-snow tends her garden.  It is not truly her garden, of course.  It belongs, insofar as it belongs to anyone on the wheel of the world, to all the sisters.  And it belongs most of all to that presence whose face is different in each season but whose name never changes, and who set the sun and moon in their courses.  But for all that, the sister spends more time in the garden than anyone else, so she thinks of it as hers.

The only flowers that grow so close to the stars are white or blue, like the colors of cloud or sky, or the unseen sea.  The convent’s garden contains none of these.  Instead, it is a stone courtyard bounded by high walls.  Every morning and evening, the sister sweeps the courtyard clear of snow.

The garden of stone is not lifeless, however.  No matter what the season, from the brief, shining summers to the mirror-colored winters, it breathes the fragrances of absent flowers.  If you start at one corner and walk a path of tangled triangles, you may inhale the scent of jasmine, or gardenias, or orange blossoms.  The absent flowers move from year to year.  The sister takes great pleasure in chronicling their movements.

Most elusive is the sister’s favorite, roses with their petals heavy with dew.  In her mind’s eye, the roses are the lush red of heart’s blood.  She has not managed to find them in the garden this year.

But she stirs in her sleep at night, breathing, without being aware of it, the scent of dew-weighted roses, for the soil they find most fertile resides in the devotion of her dreams.

for Nancy Sauer