Hollyhocks

“Yes, there you are!”

From the time I was 14 until I left Saint Benedict’s, I would rush out behind Town School to find a lone hollyhock growing through the gravel and tar each summer.

Amazing! Never a boring miracle, this flower was almost my height. A different color sang out each summer as the buds unfolded. Guessing the color every year was a delight!

Not sure what prompted me to collect those first seeds my generous miracle left behind, but I did.

Now, decades later, standing on my back porch, splashes of red, pink, yellow and orange greet the world. Those seeds from my teenage years have travelled with me and multiplied. Planted behind every house I called home, they became the way to tell people about being Benedictine. Beginning in Missouri, moving to Wisconsin and back to Missouri again, the flowers poked up each spring. Three different houses in Missouri and it was on to Colorado. By the time we moved to Michigan, I realized these “Benedictine” seeds had journeyed many miles criss-crossing the Midwest. But the journey wasn’t finished. From Michigan, it was on to California and then to New York. Now these Minnesota Benedictine seeds are growing in Tennessee. They have left behind their progeny in the north, south, east and west splashing urban, suburban, semi-arid and farm land yearly in number, color and the story of Benedict.

Looking back over my life, I can hold my teenage years in my mind by listening to the color and remembering how Benedict has walked with me. Not only has it been a horizontal kind of journey, but it continues to be a vertical one, too. Have I grown like the hollyhock? Have I spread the seeds of the Good News? How do I hold up in a storm? Has my color grown more intense? Have I learned to listen to the color and settle into silence?

Last June, I went looking for my hollyhocks when I was at Saint Ben’s. They were gone. It wasn’t because of their resilience. A whole new building was built where they once stood. Perhaps I found my purpose—to save and spread our story in a different way. I didn’t set out to plant Benedict, but I couldn’t help it. I needed Benedict as much as those seeds needed to be planted. And now, during the pandemic, the whole of the community is somehow here and I am somehow there. Don’t you hear the color sing?

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Photo: Nature’s beauty, taken by Sister Nancy Bauer