Linda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs
Excerpted Inspirations #33
[Sylvia Marshall's mother has died recently and unexpectedly of an illness. Her father is losing his reason in anguish and bereavement.]
"And yet but an hour later, as she bent over her mother's flower-beds blazing in the sun, she found the tears again streaming from her eyes.
"She tried to wipe them away, but they continued to rain down on her cheeks. Her tongue knew their saltness. She was profoundly alarmed and cowed by this irresistible weakness, and stood helplessly at bay among the languid roses. The sensation of her own utter weakness, prostrate before her dire need for strength, was as bitter as the taste of her tears.
"She stood there among the sun-warmed flowers, looking like a symbolic figure of youth triumphant ... and she felt herself to be in a black and windowless prison, where the very earth under her feet was treacherous, where everything betrayed her.
"Then, out of her need, her very great need, out of the wide and empty spaces of her inculcated unbelief, something rose up and overwhelmed her. The force stronger than herself which she had longed to feel, blew upon her like a wind out of eternity.
"She found herself on her knees, her face hidden in her hands, sending out a passionate cry which transcended words. The child of the twentieth century, who had been taught not to pray, was praying.
"She did not know how long she knelt there before the world emerged from the white glory which had whirled down upon it and hidden it from her. But when she came to herself, her eyes were dry, and the weakening impulse to tears had gone. She stretched out her hands before her, and they did not tremble. The force stronger than herself was now in her own heart. From her mother's garden there rose a strong, fragrant exhalation, as sweet as honey.
"For more than an hour Sylvia worked steadily among the flowers, consciously wrought upon by the healing emanations from the crushed, spicy leaves, the warm earth, and the hot, pure breath of the summer wind on her face.
"Once she had a passing fancy that her mother stood near her ... smiling."
-Dorothy Canfield, The Bent Twig (1915), pp. 449-450
[To be continued next week]