“And Mom tied herself to a tree so she didn’t tumble into the water while she planted flowers on the bank.”—Sandra Heska King, “The Heart Work of Eviction,” February 6, 2013, The High Calling
OUR LADY, UNTIER OF KNOTS
She walks outside to plant purple right on the bank, beneath the shade of the cypress tree. If she can get them in today, they’ll always flower. They will come back year after year, strew themselves wildly, cover her own grave. She’s waited for weeks, started the seeds indoors, ensured just the right amount of darkness. But for three nights in a row, it’s been warm enough. It’s time.
This will not work. This spot with the perfect morning sun is too steep. She inches at it with care. Slips. Scared, she stands up. She will find a way. Is planting flowers supposed to be this hard?
Into the garage, where he throws his tools. She digs to find that rope he uses to haul stuff. Fumbles with the itchy old cotton cord, making a bow. Every childhood Sunday before church, her mother said she tied her bows upside down. What if she gets stuck, like when they played with jump rope at recess back in kindergarten and she couldn’t get untied from the tree and worked the knot for forever until she finally got undone? Never mind. If these flowers don’t get in the ground soon, there will be no purple!
She wraps the rope around the thick trunk. Double-knots it, ties the only bow she knows. She braces one foot against the thirsty tree. She might fall in the dirt but she will not fall in the cold creek. She will not drown. She ties herself up. Works fast. The bank will be beautiful — lilac, violet, pink, rose, white, maybe even peach. She sits back, pulls at the bow …
Stuck. She sits down in the dirt, starts in on the loops with her fingernails. She is exceptional at untying knots.
The soon-to-be flowers wait for this woman to get out of their way. Eventually she frees herself.
She reties the rope in an upside-down bow, walks home. She knows how to attend to things that seek to sever their own roots. When she is old, she will look on these flowers through her bedroom window, see how the groundcover spread so naturally, like all things mildly invasive.